Losing one’s eyesight can be one of the most heartbreaking things a person can experience. Degenerative eye conditions are rather common. There are a lot of them, from glaucoma and cataracts to age-related macular degeneration. But here’s the good news: When these issues are caught early and dealt with by a professional ophthalmologist, patients have the best chance to retain what vision they can and live a good quality of life.
Remember: VIA is your trusted resource when you or someone you care for are experiencing visual impairment. We have a proven history of guiding patients through vision loss and helping them to restore their confidence and independence to enjoy a high quality of life.
If you’re experiencing visual impairment or know someone who is, it’s completely normal to be feeling worried and anxious about it and how it will impact you or your loved one’s life. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common degenerative eye conditions and how patients navigating these conditions can maintain a high quality of life.
This condition is a complication of either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. It’s caused by damage to the blood vessels in the retina or the tissue at the back of the eye that absorbs light. For a patient with diabetes, the longer the disease goes on, the less controlled their blood sugar level is, the more likely diabetic retinopathy occurs.
The early stages of diabetic retinopathy might not cause any symptoms at all. As the condition continues to progress, however, symptoms could include:
- Blurred vision
- Vision loss
Over time, the condition can result in blindness.
If diabetic retinopathy is mild or even moderate, proper management of the underlying diabetes is key. Maintaining proper blood sugar levels can slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy. Further treatment may not be necessary.
If diabetic retinopathy is advanced, several treatments are available. Medications like ranibizumab, aflibercept, and bevacizumab can be injected into the eye along with topical anesthesia. Treatments can help decrease the fluid buildup and inhibit the growth of blood vessels. A laser treatment called photocoagulation can also slow or stop the leaking of blood and fluid in the eye and shrink abnormal blood vessels. Finally, a vitrectomy process involves making a tiny incision in the eye to remove blood and scar tissue.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) occurs when the central part of the retina, known as the macula, starts to deteriorate. AMD can cause gradual vision loss and make it hard to see with poor contrast. However, AMD rarely causes total blindness.
The main symptoms of AMD are:
- Difficulty seeing in the center of one’s vision
- Trouble seeing in
- Dimly lit situations
- Seeing straight lines as wavy or blurry
- Fading of colors
- Trouble reading
There is no cure for AMD, and treatment is focused on stopping the progression of the disorder. For certain cases of AMD, a vitamin and supplement regimen can help slow vision loss, but it isn’t restorative. In the case of “wet macular degeneration,” your provider may recommend injections.
Cataracts are blurry spots on the lens of the eye. The lens focuses light that enters the eye to form a picture. Clouds over the lens, therefore, result in blurred vision and vision loss. Cataracts typically affect people over the age of 60 and are one of the most common degenerative eye disorders out there.
Some of the common symptoms of cataracts are:
- Blurry or clouded vision
- Sensitivity to bright light
- Difficulty seeing at night
- Double vision
- Changes in vision
For mild cases of cataracts, a new prescription for glasses or contacts might be all that’s needed. In more advanced cases, a patient will need eye surgery to remove the cataract. In this procedure, the clouded lens is replaced with an artificial lens implant.
Glaucoma involves pressure buildup in the eye, which damages the optic nerve and results in visual impairment. This disorder is one of the leading causes of blindness in people over age 60.
There are different types of glaucoma, but symptoms generally include things like:
- Tunnel vision
- Patchy blind spots
- Severe headaches (rare)
- Blurred vision (rare)
- Eye pain (rare)
- Nausea (rare)
- Redness in the eyes (rare)
If glaucoma isn’t treated, blindness may eventually occur. Unfortunately, a small percentage of people with glaucoma experience eventual blindness even with treatment.
The treatment of glaucoma involves reducing the intraocular pressure (pressure inside of the eye). Prescription eye drops are often given, which can improve fluid drainage to lower pressure. Oral medications are another option, and in advanced cases, physical surgery or laser eye therapy is needed. For some glaucoma patients, a combination of these treatments is necessary.
Eye Injury or Trauma
All sorts of things could cause eye injuries or trauma to the eye. Flying objects, chemicals, blows from hands or sports equipment — the list goes on. Even if the injury seems like a minor problem, it’s wise to get help from an eye-care professional to reduce the risk of permanent injury or vision loss.
Eye injury or trauma can result in symptoms like:
- Pain in the eye
- Difficulty seeing
- Visible blood in the eye
- A cut or torn eyelid
- Unusual pupil size or shape
If you or someone you know is experiencing the symptoms above after a traumatic eye injury of any kind, a visit to the eye doctor is in order. The exact treatment will depend, of course, on what caused the trauma. Flushing the eye with eyewash or saline solution might be necessary, and surgery might be needed in the most extreme cases. Sometimes, in the case of a black eye from a punch, for example, the best treatment is giving the eye time to heal on its own.
Also known as lazy eye, a reduced vision in one eye characterizes amblyopia because of abnormal development early on in life. The weaker eye will often “wander.” Amblyopia typically affects children from birth up to around seven years of age, and it usually affects only one eye at a time. In rare cases, though, this condition can affect both eyes at once.
An eye that wanders inward or outward is the main symptom of amblyopia. Other common indicators are:
- Frequent squinting
- Head tilting
- Difficulty perceiving depth
- Abnormal vision screening test results
Children see the best results when treatment is started early, ideally before seven years of age. Treatment options include corrective glasses or contact lenses; wearing an eye patch over the non-affected eye to strengthen the weaker eye; medicated eyedrops; and surgical repair if necessary.
Strabismus, otherwise known as crossed eyes, refers to a condition in which the eyes are not lined up properly and may point in different directions. Since both eyes need to aim simultaneously to create the proper vision, strabismus can sometimes severely affect vision.
The main symptom of strabismus is eyes that are visibly misaligned. Other signs include:
- Weakness in the eyes
- The sensation that something is pulling around the eyes
- Vision changes, including blurry vision and double vision
- Head tilting
Luckily, there are several treatment methods available to correct strabismus. In addition to eye muscle exercises and specialized eyewear, strabismus surgery is very effective. This procedure involves repositioning the muscles in the eyes to help the eyes point in the same direction. This may be done in one eye or both.
How VIA Can Help
There is no denying a diagnosis with vision changes, or visual loss can present challenges. Vision rehabilitation is necessary for many patients recovering from or adjusting to eye issues like those listed above.
For over 100 years, VIA has provided rehabilitation and social services to individuals in Western New York who are visually impaired. We pride ourselves on being a comprehensive resource for people experiencing vision loss or legally blind to help them adapt to new ways of independence. Our team of vision professionals will customize services to help manage vision loss at any age.
If you or someone you love is suffering from visual loss, contact us today to learn more.