There are many different conditions that can affect our eyes and potentially compromise our vision. Three of the most common are glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and macular degeneration. Here’s what you need to know about these eye diseases and the treatment that is available.
Glaucoma is a well-known eye condition that occurs when there is damage to the optic nerve caused by excess pressure within the eyes. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in people over the age of 60. There are several types of glaucoma, with open-angle glaucoma being the most common by far. The difficulty is that it develops slowly and often with few symptoms if any. This makes comprehensive eye exams crucial for early detection. Closed-angle glaucoma is quite rare but does present with painful and debilitating symptoms and must be treated as an emergency.
The main way to get glaucoma under control and prevent any further damage to your eyes is to lower your eye pressure as quickly as possible. This is especially true in the case of closed-angle glaucoma which develops suddenly and requires urgent treatment to prevent permanent damage to your vision. Any damage that has already occurred will be irreversible so catching the disease in its early stages is crucial.
There are several different options for treating glaucoma, and which you’ll be recommended is likely to depend on the type of glaucoma that you have and how advanced it is. Some of the treatment options include:
Eyedrops. These can reduce the production of the tear film and help to increase the outflow of fluid from the eyes, lowering the pressure inside them.
Oral medications. Usually the next step after eyedrops, these too help to reduce the production of fluid inside the eyes to lower the intraocular pressure.
Laser therapy. Laser therapy is nearly always recommended for patients with closed-angle glaucoma as it produces the most rapid lowering of the intraocular pressure. The laser is used to open any clogged drainage channels so that fluid can leave the eyes more easily.
Trabeculectomy. This is a surgical procedure that involves removing part of the meshwork that covers the drainage channels so that fluid can be drained away more easily.
Laser peripheral iridotomy. This procedure is recommended for patients with closed-angle glaucoma too as intraocular pressure starts to be relieved immediately after the surgery, which involves creating a small opening in the iris using a laser. This opening allows fluid to flow through it, so eye pressure is reduced.
Many people are surprised to discover that diabetes can affect their eyes, but diabetic retinopathy is a common complication of diabetes. It occurs when persistently high blood sugar levels damage the blood vessels that serve the retina, which is the part of the eye that receives light and turns it into image signals that are sent to our brain. Diabetic retinopathy is progressive, and any vision loss as a result of the condition is irreversible. For this reason, all patients with diabetes are recommended to undergo annual diabetic eye screening appointments which assess your eyes to determine if you are developing diabetic retinopathy.
The best way to get diabetic retinopathy under control, or to prevent it in the first place, is to carefully manage your diabetes. This can be achieved through diet or a combination of diet and medication. People who control their diabetes may not ever go on to develop diabetic retinopathy.
If diabetic retinopathy is allowed to progress, there are several different treatments that may be recommended.
Laser treatment. Laser technology is used to stabilize your diabetic retinopathy and prevent it from getting any worse. It does this by creating new blood vessels so that they don’t leak blood and fluids into your retina.
Injections. In some instances, patients need injections of a medicine called anti-VEGF which prevents new blood vessels from forming at the back of the eyes. These injections are administered directly into the eyes.
Surgery. If other treatment methods are unsuccessful or unsuitable, you may be recommended to undergo surgery to remove some of the vitreous humour from the eye. This is the transparent, jelly-like substance that fills the space behind the lens of the eyes.
Also known as age-related macular degeneration or AMD for short, macular degeneration is a very common condition affecting people over the age of 50 and is characterized by a gradual loss of central vision. While it doesn’t cause total blindness, it can make some normal day to day activities like watching television, reading, and recognizing faces more difficult. It’s not known exactly why AMD develops, but it has been linked to lifestyle factors like smoking, obesity, excess alcohol consumption, and high blood pressure. There are different types of AMD, and treatment will depend on which variety you have.
If you are diagnosed with ‘dry’ AMD, sadly there is no effective treatment. However, patients can improve their vision and their quality of life using vision aids like glasses, magnifying glasses, and better lighting.
If you are diagnosed with ‘wet’ AMD, you may be recommended to have regular eye injections of Anti-VEGF medicines or given light therapy treatment. This is where a light is shined onto the back of the eyes to destroy the abnormal blood vessels that cause wet AMD. In some cases, these treatments may be combined.
For more information about the treatment for glaucoma, diabetes, and macular degeneration, don’t hesitate to speak to our dedicated eye care team in Columbus, IN.