A cataract is a cloudy area in the lens in the front of the eye. There is no pain associated with the condition but there are other symptoms, including:
- Blurred/hazy vision
- Spots in front of the eye(s)
- Sensitivity to glare
- A feeling of “film” over the eye(s)
Most people develop cataracts simply as a result of aging, with the majority of cases occurring in people over the age of 55. Over 1.2 million Americans are diagnosed with cataracts each year. Other risk factors include eye injury or disease, a family history of cataracts, smoking or use of certain medications.
For people who are significantly affected by cataracts, lens replacement surgery may be recommended. During cataract replacement, the most common surgical procedure in the country, the lens is removed and replaced with an artificial one called an intraocular lens (IOL).
During cataract surgery, the clouded lens in the eye is removed from the lens capsule and replaced with a clear, artificial lens called an IOL. Weeks, months or years after the surgery, some patients experience a loss of vision. This sometimes happens because the lens capsule becomes cloudy or wrinkled, blurring the patient's vision once again. This affects about 1 in 4 people within 5 years of having cataract surgery. It is sometimes called an after cataract or secondary membrane.
If an examination confirms that this is the case, and if the clouded capsule prevents the patient from doing what he or she wants or needs to do, then a posterior capsulotomy may be recommended. This simple procedure uses a YAG laser to open a window in the back of the lens capsule and restore clear vision. Posterior capsulotomy is a painless outpatient procedure that takes less than 15 minutes. Vision improvement is quick, and the patient can resume normal activities immediately.
Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness in the U.S. It occurs when the pressure inside the eye rises, damaging the optic nerve and causing vision loss. The condition often develops over many years without causing pain or other noticeable symptoms - so you may not experience vision loss until the disease has progressed.
Sometimes symptoms do occur. They may include:
- Blurred vision
- Loss of peripheral vision
- Halo effects around lights
- Painful or reddened eyes
People at high risk include those who are over the age of 40, diabetic, near-sighted, African-American, or who have a family history of glaucoma.
To detect glaucoma, your physician will test your visual acuity and visual field as well as the pressure in your eye. Regular eye exams help to monitor the changes in your eyesight and to determine whether you may develop glaucoma.
Once diagnosed, glaucoma can be controlled and further vision loss can be prevented. Treatments to lower pressure in the eye include non-surgical methods such as prescription eye drops and medications, laser therapy, and surgery.
Fuchs' dystrophy is a rare degenerative disorder which causes the cells of the cornea to slowly deteriorate. The cells lose their ability to move excess fluid away from the field of vision, causing vision to become cloudy or blurry in the morning and get better as the day goes by. Other symptoms may include:
- Dry, gritty sensation in the eyes
- Poor night vision
- Halos around lights
- Sensitivity to bright lights
- Sharp pain in the eyes
In many patients, the disease has no clear cause, but in some cases it is genetically linked. However, the severity of the case is not consistent with its hereditary line, leading to some family members being adversely affected while others have only mild symptoms. This variant of the disease is clearly autosomal dominant, meaning half of the parent's offspring are likely to be affected.
Although the symptoms of Fuchs' Dystrophy can be treated, the actual defect of the eye cannot be cured. If caught in the early stages, several simple maneuvers can be performed on the eyes, such as using a blow dryer at arm's length or saline solution in order to reduce the fluid buildup. Wearing soft contact lenses may also help alleviate discomfort. Once the disease has progressed to the point at which daily life becomes difficult, the doctor may suggest a corneal transplant (keratoplasty) to replace the deteriorated cornea(s).