It is recommended that everyone have their eyes examined every two years, and in some cases more regularly. During a standard eye examination the optometrist screens for a variety of ocular diseases and conditions that can cause irreversible vision loss if left untreated. Early detection is critical to save vision and slow the progress of these conditions. Our optometrists are experienced in managing patients with ocular conditions and work with ophthalmologists in Moonee Ponds to improve outcomes and optimise vision. Below are some common diseases that affect the eye and lead to vision loss and blindness.
Macular Degeneration (MD)
Age-related macular degeneration (MD) is the leading cause of blindness in Australia. It is a disease that affects the layer of cells underneath the retina (back of the eye). Macular degeneration occurs over time and, without an eye examination, can easily go undetected. It is associated with ageing, affecting people over 50. Risk factors include smoking and having a family history of MD. MD affects the central vision. Often it goes unnoticed, however symptoms can include dark patches in centre of vision, perceiving straight lines as wavy or bent, sensitivity to glare, poor night vision and difficulty reading. There are two types of macular degeneration: wet and dry. The majority of cases are dry. There is no cure for dry macular degeneration at this stage. For patients with dry MD, their condition is co-managed by an ophthalmologist and an optometrist. Lifestyle changes can slow the progress and it is also important that Dry MD is carefully observed in case it changes into wet MD. Wet MD is a rarer and more severe version of the disease. There is no cure for wet MD either, however injections of various drugs and laser treatments can stabilise the vision and slow the progress of the disease.
The greatest risk with macular degeneration is to neglect regular eye examinations. Undetected, macular degeneration gradually degrades your vision, eventually resulting in permanent blindness. On the other hand, if macular degeneration is detected early through an eye examination, it can be managed and treated properly, resulting in improved outcomes. Patients with a family history or risk factors for MD, should have their eyes examined every year.
There are different types of cataracts. Most are age-related, which generally start after 50. In the early stages, cataracts are not noticeable. Gradually over time vision becomes cloudy, like ‘looking through fog’. Cataracts result in reduced distance vision, increased glare sensitivity and difficulty with night driving. Different types of optical lenses can be used to improve the vision and comfort for those with cataracts. They can also be treated surgically by an ophthalmologist. Cataracts are still the leading cause of blindness in the developing world due to the inaccessibility of optical care and surgery.
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that result in loss of vision due to damage to the optic nerve. It affects people of all ages, though the risk increases with age. Having a family history of glaucoma greatly increases the risk. The most common forms of glaucoma reduce peripheral vision. The condition is often left undetected until late stages when vision loss is permanent and irreversible. Early detection is critical and improves outcomes. Glaucoma can be detected early by visual field testing and advanced imaging of the back of the eye (retina and optic nerve), which can be conducted at your regular eye examination with an optometrist. Glaucoma is usually co managed between an optometrist and ophthalmologist. Treatments vary between drops, surgical intervention and close monitoring. All glaucoma patients need to be monitored with regular eye-tests.
Diabetes type 1 and type 2 can cause diabetic retinopathy, another of the world’s major causes of blindness. Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that causes damage to the blood vessels inside the retina (the back of the eye). All diabetics are at risk of Diabetic Retinopathy and all ages may be affected. It is the world’s leading cause of blindness for working-age adults. Like other eye diseases, diabetic retinopathy has no early stage symptoms and develops over time. Without early intervention, people with the condition can experience permanent vision loss and blindness. Left untreated, it can cause significant haemorrhaging and permanent vision reduction. In severe cases, treatment is possible via laser and surgery. Early detection through regular eye examination is easily the best and most cost-effective way of improving outcomes for people with diabetes. Patients who have diabetes should be seen annually to ensure early detection.