Over 3 million Americans aged 40 and above are either legally blind or suffer from low vision. The leading cause? The contracting of an eye-related disease or condition.
Primarily age-related, these conditions include cataracts, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma. While some disorders are corrected by eyeglasses – refractive errors, for instance – it is important to understand the value of medication and treatment.
While your doctor will be best placed to assess your condition, we believe vision is not in the medication conversation enough. As result, eye conditions are often left untreated out of fear or a belief that the symptoms will cease on their own.
To challenge this, we have listed four of the most common eye conditions affecting Americans and the methods of treating them.
Perhaps the most well-known eye condition, cataracts are spots of clouding within the lens of your eye. By the age of 75, half of white Americans will have a cataract. By 80, this increases to 70%. For black Americans this statistic is significantly reduced to 53%, and 61% for Hispanic sufferers.
Sadly, this is a common factor of aging. Usually appearing in both eyes, the condition makes driving, reading and other activities more difficult.
Despite the prevalence of cataracts, it is important you are quick in diagnosing them. While they do not inherently cause discomfort or pain, they can irritate you should they move into an advanced stage.
Realistically, to prevent the condition advancing or affecting your day-to-day, you should speak to your opticians if:
- Lights cause discomfort or are now too bright when they were not before
- You struggle to see in low light
- Colors appear more faded
- Your vision seems blurred
Like most eye conditions, you will be tested for cataracts with standard eye-testing methods. You will also undergo a visual acuity exam to measure your ability to see at various distances.
For children, the condition (also known as pediatric or childhood cataracts) isn’t usually preventable as it is often found within 72 hours of birth when the infant’s eyes are first tested. That being said, detection at this stage can prevent the condition from worsening as children get older. Just like aged-related cataract sufferers, the treatment for the advanced condition is most often surgery.
It is not known why these older sufferers develop cataracts, although there are a number of factors that increase your risk. These include:
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- A family history of cataracts
- Eye injury
In the early stages, treatment is often stronger glasses. However, this is never permanent as the condition will always worsen over time, meaning that gradually surgery will be the only solution.
While this might appear intimidating at first, it is generally one of the most common operations performed in the US. Taking approximately between 35 and 40 minutes, the procedure involves the removal of your blurry or clouded lens, which is then replaced with a clear, artificial one.
Your doctor may prescribe specific eye medication (most commonly Maxidex) to you and certain pain relief if necessary. It is recommended that you inform them of your professional responsibilities and consult with them to determine when it is safe for you to return to work.
30.3 million Americans have diabetes. Among those, there are some who develop severe complications with their eyes. These complications are known as diabetic retinopathy, and should those afflicted not seek treatment, they risk losing their vision.
For sufferers of diabetes, blood sugar levels need to be monitored and carefully managed. If they remain consistently high, these blood vessels can become damaged. The eye uses a significant amount of blood vessels to see, and if these blood vessels are damaged, the retina cannot get the blood it needs to work.
The condition comes in one of four forms:
Background retinopathy (R1) – Slight bleeding from your blood vessel as a result of tiny bulges within the eye.
Pre-proliferative retinopathy (R2) – More significant bleeding as a consequence of more widespread changes to the blood vessels.
Proliferative retinopathy (R3) – Scar tissue and new blood vessels develop on the retina, causing bleeding and loss of vision.
Maculopathy – This is different from the preceding three in that the middle of the eye is affected more so than the surrounding edges.
Obviously, you are only capable of developing this condition if you suffer from diabetes (including both type 1 and type 2). Even then, it usually takes several years for the condition to reach a point where it could impact your vision.
As with most symptoms of diabetes, the impact can be reduced by making positive changes to your lifestyle and routinely taking your prescribed medication.
Should the condition worsen, laser treatment is the solution.
Like other treatments of eye disease, the aim here is to slow or stop the progression of the condition. Laser treatment will do this by stopping the leakage of blood and fluid into the retina. Specifically, the treatment creates small burns in areas of the eye with abnormal blood vessels in an attempt to seal the leaks.
Following the treatment, side effects can include:
- Blurred vision
- Increased sensitivity to light
- Aching or discomfort
Should these fail to pass, or your symptoms worsen, you may need to proceed to eye injections or even surgery. Regularly consult your doctor if you feel this may be the case, and do your utmost to reduce the severity of your diabetes.
In 2015, an estimated 3 million people were blind as a direct consequence of glaucoma. It is, in fact, the third leading cause of blindness and relates to a group of conditions that are categorized by optic nerve damage.
Usually this damage is caused by fluid building up in the front part of the eye, increasing the pressure inside. While this sounds like it might be apparent to those afflicted, there are no initial symptoms. Instead, the condition develops over many years and initially is only noticeable at the edges of your vision.
In rare cases of glaucoma developing over a brief period of time, symptoms you need to be conscious of include:
- Intense eye pain
- Red eyes
- Blurred vision
- Nausea and vomiting
If you are suffering from any of the above and believe it to be glaucoma, visit your opticians or doctors promptly. Early diagnosis with treatment can prevent blindness. Should you have the condition, it will be detected in a routine eye test and the type will also be determined.
The variations of the condition include:
Primary open angle glaucoma – The most common form of the disease that develops over time.
Acute angle closure glaucoma – A sudden form of glaucoma where the drainage of the eye becomes blocked, increasing pressure very quickly.
Secondary glaucoma – The result of an underlying eye condition, such as inflammation of the eye.
Childhood glaucoma (congenital glaucoma) – A rare form of glaucoma that occurs in young children as the result of an abnormality in the eye.
While it is true that you cannot reverse the loss of vision that glaucoma has caused, treatment will prevent the situation worsening. Depending on the type of glaucoma you are suffering from, the options for treatment are:
Eyedrops – Lumigan or Bimatoprost can ease the pressure within your eye.
Laser treatment – To unblock drainage tubes or reduce fluid.
Surgery – To improve the drainage process within your eyes.
Whichever solution works best for you, it is often an ongoing process and requires regular eye tests to monitor and sustain.
How we can help
At Medix, while we are not able to physically conduct eye tests, our pharmacists are able to guide you through any symptoms associated with the above conditions.
Using their expertise, they are able to provide medication that can either slow or stop the progression of the disease. Alternatively, they can dispense medication that will ease the after-effects of any surgery or treatment you may receive.
Loss of vision can be frightening, which is why we ensure that no one has to tackle it alone. So, even if for an advisory conversation, speak to our healthcare professionals today and find out more about the medication that can help safeguard your sight.