Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a painless eye condition that leads to the gradual loss of central vision. It causes blurring and affects details and colours and the ability to read text and recognise faces. AMD usually affects both eyes but the speed at which it progresses can vary from eye to eye.
It is not known what causes it, but it is thought that smoking, age and a family history of AMD are known to increase the risk.
There are two types of AMD: dry AMD and wet MD. The former is the most common and least serious but one in ten sufferers go on to develop wet MD. Without treatment, wet MD can damage vision irreversibly within days. There is currently no treatment for dry AMD so treatment is limited to improving what vision remains using magnifying glasses, large print books, bright reading lights and a healthy diet all help. Wet MD can be treated using a medication called ranibizumab and in some cases laser surgery is suitable.
Cataracts are cloudy areas in the lens inside the eye which is usually clear.
If part of the lens becomes opaque light does not pass through easily and vision becomes blurred.
The sensation is like looking through a fogged-up window. Although babies and children can suffer from cataracts (congenital cataracts) they are usually age-related. According to the latest research, taking statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs) increases the likelihood of developing cataracts. Cataracts reduce colour and contrast and make driving, reading, recognising faces and coping with bright lights increasingly hard. Cataracts are the most common cause of blindness. Surgery – a new lens implant – is the best treatment.
Glaucoma is when eye fluid doesn’t drain and so causes pressure in the eye which damages the retina and optic nerve. It is one of the most common causes of preventable blindness as its progress can be halted with treatment.
Of the many types of glaucoma, chronic glaucoma is the most common.
Symptoms develop slowly and include pain, headache, tender eye, misty vision and loss of vision. Treatment aims to lower the pressure in the eye, preventing further damage to the optic nerve. In most cases, this is achieved using eye drops. If unsuccessful laser treatment or surgery may be recommended.
Diabetic Retinopathy is a common complication of diabetes and can lead to blindness if left untreated. It is caused when high blood sugar levels damage the retina.
The retina needs a constant supply of blood and high blood sugar levels can cause the blood vessels to become blocked or leak.
Symptoms include floaters, blurry vision, reduced night vision and sudden blindness. It is vital to detect retinopathy early so diabetics should have regular eye tests. If identified early it can be treated with better blood sugar control; in cases of more advanced retinopathy, laser surgery can prevent further damage to the eyes.
Presbyopia happens naturally as people age and the eye muscles and lens deteriorate making it hard to focus on near objects. It is inescapable and it is not a disease. The hardening of the lens means that the eye is not able to focus light directly onto the retina, and the muscle fibres around the lens are less elastic, making it hard for the eye to focus close-up.
More than a billion people worldwide were presbyopic in 2005 according to the WHO.
Glasses or multifocal contact lenses are the most common correction for presbyopia. There are also surgical options which are constantly evolving and improving.
Prevention of Visual Deterioration
The best way to look after your eyes is to live a healthy lifestyle and to protect your eyes from UV light; so a good diet, exercise, and no smoking. Have regular eye checks and pay attention to any sudden changes in your sight.
Did You Know?
- It is estimated that around 1 in 5 people over the age of 75 have some degree of visual impairment. The number with sight loss will increase to over 2.25m in the next decade.
- Human eyes are made up of more than two million small parts though they each weigh only about an ounce. Out of all the muscles in a human body, the eye muscles are the most active, day and night (Rapid Eye Movement during sleep).
270,000 people in the UK aged 60 or over who have fallen in the last two years say that poor eyesight was a factor.
- The leading cause of severe vision loss in adults over 50 is Age-related
- Macular Degeneration (AMD). 1.8 million people in the UK have AMD.
- About 400,000 cataract operations will be carried out in 2013 across the NHS at about £750 per eye.
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