Treatment & Management
Amblyopia, also known as lazy eye, is an eye condition that results in reduced vision in one eye. Amblyopia usually affects one eye but has been known to affect both eyes. Amblyopia is the leading cause of visual impairment among children. If left untreated, amblyopia can result in the permanent loss of vision in the affected eye. This condition affects two to three percent of the population as a result of genetic causes, related conditions or trauma. Treatment of amblyopia in children has begun as early as one week old.
Each year, cataracts affect millions of people, including more than half of all Americans aged 60 and older. A cataract is a painless clouding of the eye's natural lens that is caused by a buildup of protein. A cataract can form in one or both eyes. If left untreated, cataracts worsen over time and interfere with everyday activities such as reading or driving. Night vision is usually most affected. When cataracts are in their early stages, people are helped by brighter lighting. As cataracts get worse, however, most people require surgery.
Conjunctivitis, commonly referred to as pink eye, is an infection or inflammation of the conjunctiva, the membrane that lines the eyelid and covers the white part of the eyeball. The inflammation affects the blood vessels in the eye and gives the eye a pink or red appearance. Pink eye can be caused by either a bacterial or viral infection, an allergic reaction, a foreign object in the eye or a blocked tear duct. Pink eye can be contagious, so proper diagnosis and prompt treatment are important.
Symptoms of Conjunctivitis
The most common symptoms of pink eye include:
- Redness in one or both eyes
- Itchiness in one or both eyes
- A discharge that may become crusty overnight
- Excessive tearing
- A feeling of grittiness in the eye
Pink eye can be highly contagious, for up to several weeks after signs and symptoms have begun. Prompt treatment can protect others from becoming infected with the bacteria that causes pink eye.
Injuries, such as scratches or cuts on the surface of the cornea, are known as corneal abrasions. The cornea is the clear covering of the front of the eye which bends, or refracts, light rays as they enter the eye. Corneal abrasions are painful due the number of nerve cells in the cornea that transmit pain. The pain experienced with a corneal abrasion lets the patient know that there is a serious condition that needs to be addressed immediately.
It is important for patients with corneal abrasion to avoid touching or rubbing their eyes. In most cases, corneal abrasion can be effectively treated with no permanent complications. Depending on the severity of the injury a corneal transplantation may be recommended.
A corneal ulcer, also known as an eyesore or ulcerative keratitis, is a sore that forms on the surface of the cornea, the clear portion of the eye. It is typically the result of a bacterial, viral or fungal infection. Other possible causes include the following:
- Corneal abrasion
- Dry-eye disorder
- Medical conditions resulting in inflammation
Corneal ulcers are more common in those who wear contact lenses, particularly when the lenses are not removed at night or cleaned properly.
Symptoms of a Corneal Ulcer
Corneal ulcers can be very painful, and can produce the following symptoms:
- Blurred vision
- Light sensitivity
Anyone who has eye symptoms of unknown origin should consult an ophthalmologist for a definitive diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Diagnosis of a Corneal Ulcer
To diagnose a corneal ulcer, an examination with a slit lamp is performed. Most often, a fluorescein stain is administered as an eye drop to make the ulcer more visible. A sample of the ulcer tissue may be biopsied to determine the source of infection. Other testing, possibly including blood and urine testing, may be conducted to find the ulcer's cause.
Treatment of a Corneal Ulcer
Treatment for a corneal ulcer varies depending on its underlying cause. Antibiotic eye drops are usually effective in resolving an infection. Eye drops containing corticosteroids may also be necessary to alleviate swelling. In the most severe cases, a corneal transplant may be needed. Most patients who are treated for a corneal ulcer have no complications or long-term vision problems. If a corneal ulcer goes untreated, however, it can result in scarring and permanent vision loss.
Diabetic Eye Disease
Patients with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing eye conditions as a complication of their disease. These conditions can lead to vision loss and blindness and include diabetic retinopathy, cataracts and glaucoma. Diabetic retinopathy is actually the leading cause of blindness in the United States.
Diabetic eye conditions often develop without any noticeable loss of vision or pain, so significant damage may have occurred by the time patients notice any symptoms. For this reason, it is important for diabetic patients to have their eyes examined at least once a year. Early detection of eye disease can help prevent permanent damage.
Diagnosis of Diabetic Eye Conditions
Diabetic eye conditions can be detected through a comprehensive eye exam. A comprehensive eye exam involves a visual acuity test to measure vision at various distances, and a dilated eye exam to examine the structures of the eye for any signs of disease. During this test, your doctor can examine the retina and optic nerve with a special magnifying lens. Tonometry may also be performed during a comprehensive eye exam to measure the pressure inside the eye with a special instrument.
Treatment of Diabetic Retinopathy
Other than controlling blood pressure, blood cholesterol and the levels of blood sugar, treatment is not needed during the first three stages of diabetic retinopathy. The fourth stage, proliferative retinopathy is treated with a laser surgery procedure known as scatter laser treatment. During the procedure the abnormal blood vessels are ablated causing them to shrink. This procedure works best once the blood vessels begin to bleed. Severe blood vessel bleeding may need to surgically corrected with a vitrectomy procedure to remove the blood from the eye.
Reducing the Risks of Developing Diabetic Retinopathy
Patients with diabetes need to have an annual comprehensive dilated eye exam. The length of time a patient has diabetes will determine the likelihood of developing diabetic retinopathy. Almost 50 percent of patients in the United States, diagnosed with diabetes, have a form of diabetic retinopathy.
The risks of developing diabetic eye disease can be minimized by:
- Monitoring changes in vision
- Keeping A1C levels under 7%
- Monitoring and managing blood pressure levels
- Eating a healthy diet
- Participating in a regular exercise routine
- Monitoring and managing cholesterol levels