Many eye diseases have no early symptoms. They may be painless, and you may see no change in your vision until the disease has become quite advanced. Only your eye care professional will be able to tell if you have an eye condition and options to care for your eyes.
What should I look for?
If you are experiencing an unusual vision symptom, see your eye care professional immediately. Here are some clues to help you determine what may be happening to your eyes.
If you’re having trouble reading and watching television, and driving at night has become uncomfortable because of the glare of oncoming headlights, you may have cataracts. Almost all of us will develop cataracts as we age, because the lens within your eye becomes more opaque as we get older. Luckily, cataracts have become a ‘common’ problem to rectify. In an outpatient procedure, your ophthalmologist can replace your eye’s lens with an artificial lens, called an intraocular lens (IOL), resulting in a restoration of your sight.
Loss of peripheral vision
Abnormally high pressure inside your eye can lead to glaucoma – and it often has no symptoms until damage to your vision has begun. It may seem that you don’t have the side-to-side vision you’re used to, producing an experience called “tunnel vision.” The early detection of glaucoma is important in order to enable appropriate monitoring and treatment, and to minimise the risk of irreversible visual loss.
Blurred images and dull colours
When reading the newspaper or street signs takes a major effort, and colours have lost their intensity, you may have the early warning signs of eye conditions that affect the macula. The macula, the part of your retina that’s responsible for central vision, deteriorates to the point where it may create a blind spot in the middle of your field of vision. Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) progress is often slow but it’s the leading cause of blindness in people over 65. Some cases can be treated with surgery, but the more prevalent form of macular degeneration is currently untreatable. In an important clinical study, people with intermediate to advance AMD at high risk for more advanced stages of AMD lowered their risk by about 25% when treated with a high dose combination of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and zinc.
Floating spots and flashes of light
It can be normal to see the occasional floating black speck or even a pinpoint flash of light in your eye. The vitreous, or gel-like part of your eye that maintains the shape of your eyeball, sometimes contains cells and bits of fibre that seem to float between the retina and the lens of our eyes. If you experience a sudden increase in the number of floaters or notice that existing floaters have become more noticeable, and if they’re accompanied by bright, flashes of light and/or a curtain or shadow at the edge of your vision, this may be a warning sign of impending retinal detachment – a tear between the vitreous part of the eye and the retina. If left untreated, this tear can expand and lead to a serious loss of vision. See your eye care professional immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.
Diabetes and Your Eyes
High blood sugar and hypertension (high blood pressure) can damage the tiny blood vessels within your retina. If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, tell your optometrist – and have your eyes examined every year to watch for a complication called diabetic retinopathy, or as advised by your eye care professional. This painless condition has no symptoms until it becomes serious, but it can be controlled and treated – and its progress can be slowed significantly if it’s found before you experience vision loss.
Many people over 65 have some loss of sight beyond the normal, age-related vision correction issues like presbyopia or cataracts. For example, glaucoma can cause a permanent loss of peripheral vision, and macular degeneration can block a portion of your field of vision in one or both eyes. This state of your eyesight is known as low vision, a condition that can’t be corrected with glasses, contact lenses or surgery.
Your low vision specialist will begin by evaluating your specific case, asking you about the activities you’re having trouble performing on a daily basis. Testing will help to determine exactly what types of devices and aids are helpful to you: spectacles, magnifiers, telescopes, reading stands, lamps, and others.They will then help you plan a rehabilitation program possibly involving an occupational therapist and other health care professionals as needed, so that you may resume your independent life within your condition’s limitations.
Any surgical procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek further advice from an eye care practitioner.