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Health Do eye care? Simplified guide to common eye conditions

“Remember an eye examination is much more that just a sight test. There are several common aspects of eye health which can be recognised during the test” warns Stuart Knight of RT Knight Eyecare. He takes time out from his busy schedule to explain to us the most common eye complaints in everyday language in the hope that it will encourage people to have regular checks and help prevent some of the conditions listed below;

Short sightedness – Myopia This occurs when the object viewed is not focused properly on the retina located at the back of the eye. In fact the image focuses ‘short’ of the retina causing distant vision to appear blurred. Myopia affects many people particularly children between the ages of 7 and 13. The optician will often prescribe lenses which re-focus the vision correctly onto the retina.

Farsightedness – Hyperopia If your distance vision is clear, but you find focusing on near objects difficult then you may well be farsighted (also called hyperopia). In effect the image is focused behind the retina. Such patients are often prescribed near vision lenses. However, older people may require lenses for distance as well as near.

Presbyopia This condition is when the lens inside the eye loses its flexibility making reading and the ability to see near objects difficult, although distance vision may remain unaffected. Presbyopia is a natural part of the ageing process usually occurring in the mid- forties. It is not a disease and cannot be prevented (similar to hyperopia). Commonly reading glasses will be required.

Astigmatism The outer layer of the eye (the Cornea) should be round and equally curved. If its not - which is often the case, the image focused on the retina is distorted or slanted. Astigmatism is not a disease and is common to people with both short and farsightedness. Lenses are prescribed which correct the degree of astigmatism.

Dry Eye – Keratoconjunctivitis sicca This occurs when there is an insufficient quality or quantity of tears needed to keep the cornea moist. Symptoms are sandy-gritty irritation, or itchy, red or tired eyes. The optician can prescribe a range of artificial tears and ointments to soothe the eyes.

Cataracts Cataract is the clouding of the lens inside the eye, preventing light passing clearly through to the retina, thus making vision blurred and cloudy. The most effective treatment is a small operation to remove the affected lens which is then replaced with a plastic lens enabling the eye to focus properly.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration – AMD The macula is found at the centre of the retina where vision is focused. AMD is not painful and never leads to total blindness only affecting the central field of vision. It is the most common cause of poor sight in people over 60. It makes reading, writing and recognising small objects and faces very difficult.

Glaucoma The optic nerve carries information from the retina to the brain. Glaucoma occurs when the internal pressure of the eye becomes raised and damages the optic nerve. About 2 in 100 people over the age of 40 in the UK are affected. It is advised that people with close relatives who have or had Glaucoma should be tested every year. The main treatment is to reduce the pressure in the eye by using eye drops, but early diagnosis and regular eye examinations can keep damage to a minimum.

Diabetes and eyesight There are 2 types of diabetes – one controlled by insulin injections, the other by tablets or diet. Both affect the eye in the same way and can cause damage to the blood vessels in the retina. This is called diabetic retinopathy. Diabetes can be detected during a routine eye examination by the optician.

Spots and Floaters These are small, semi transparent or cloudy particles which are quite common and usually harmless, in the clear, jelly-like fluid that fills the inside of the eye. They appear as specks or thread- like strands, most visible when looking at a light background.

Retinal Detachment If spots or floaters become suddenly larger or more dense, with a cobweb-like appearance, this may indicate an early slight detachment of the retina. Urgent attention by the optician, or hospital Eye Unit must be sought.

Source: The Eyecare Trust 16 Life Begins

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