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Eye Health

Improve Your Eyesight

It can be distressing to notice any changes in your ability to see. It may be that you’re squinting to make out distant objects, suffering from headaches, falling over regularly or experiencing visual disturbances. The important thing is to get your eyes tested, as soon as you can. You can call us free phone 0800-917-2256 and we’ll book a home visit at your convenience.

Common eye conditions

There are a range of medical conditions that may affect your sight and, if identified early, these can be treated and managed.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is the name for a group of eye conditions in which the optic nerve is damaged at the point where it leaves the eye. This nerve carries information from the light sensitive layer in your eye – the retina, to the brain where it is perceived as a picture.

Eyesight Problems Caused By Glaucoma

To function properly, the human eyeball requires a certain amount of internal pressure, which is provided by a flow of liquid. Too much or too little pressure can cause damage to the optic nerve at the back of the eye (though problems also arise if the nerve itself is flawed). This is a disease called glaucoma and it irreparably damages the optic nerve, which carries information from your eye to your brain.

There are four types of glaucoma: chronic, acute, secondary and developmental. The latter is very rare, affecting only babies.

Chronic glaucoma becomes more common with increasing age. Uncommon in under-40s it affects 1% of people over this age and 5% over 65. Points to note:

  • Peripheral vision is affected after creating a ‘tunnel’ effect
  • Consequences include difficulty with mobility and physical hazards
  • Early detection is essential to inhibit damage and protect vision
  • Existing damage cannot be repaired.
  • Chronic glaucoma is initially symptomless and painless so regular eye checks are advised. Our Optometrists are trained in identifying glaucoma and in conducting tests with the most advanced equipment.

Cataracts

Cataracts are opacities (cloudiness) in the eye lens. Light passes through the lens to reach the back of the eye so changes in the transparency of this lens affect the vision.

Eyesight Problems Caused By Cataracts

The most common cause of treatable vision loss in the United Kingdom, cataracts are largely age-related. Some 26% of cases of eye degeneration and sight loss in people over 75 are estimated to be due to cataracts, which can be successfully treated in over 90% of cases. In younger people, cataracts may be caused by diabetes or other eyesight problems.

Contrary to popular belief, cataracts are not created by skin growing over the eye: they are a clouding of the lens of the eye and form inside the eye, not on it. The symptoms:

  • Eyesight problems including poor, blurry or ‘misty’ vision
  • Being dazzled by lights such as car headlamps or sunlight
  • Colour vision becoming faded or washed out
  • Difficulty seeing in dim light conditions

It’s worth noting that gradually failing sight and eye degeneration are often disregarded and dismissed as a natural consequence of old age, and as such aren't reported.

Improving Eyesight with Cataracts

The treatment for improving eyesight with cataracts is a simple, relatively quick operation and it is usually very successful. A local anaesthetic is normally required. If spectacles are worn beforehand, they will still be required and probably with a new prescription following the operation.

As you’d expect with fairly common eyesight problems, Our optometrists at Iris are well versed in spotting the signs of eye degeneration at the earliest stages, and have all the equipment to help them do it, which means peace of mind for all concerned and better maintenance of sight, confidence, independence and quality of life for the patient.  Our optometrists are able to refer patients to their GP or hospital for cataract treatment.

Blepharitis

Blepharitis is a common inflammatory condition that affects the eyelids. It usually causes burning, irritation and itching of the eyelids. In certain cases it may cause styes and inflammation of the cornea and conjunctiva. Some patients have no symptoms at all. It can often be caused or made worse by dandruff and other skin complaints.

Blepharitis is usually a chronic problem that can be controlled with extra attention to lid hygiene.

Signs and symptoms

  • Sandy, itchy eyes
  • Red and swollen eyelids
  • Crusty and flaky skin on the eyelids
  • Dandruff

Treatment

Blepharitis cannot be cured, but symptoms can be controlled with good eye hygiene.

Eye hygiene
It is important to clean your eyelids every day as this helps ease your symptoms and prevents them from reoccurring. This can be done by applying a warm compress to your closed eyelids for 5-10 minutes. Gently rub the compress over your closed eyelids for 2-3 minutes, this will help loosen any crusting.

Use a cotton bud or cloth with warm water and a small amount of cleaning solution (a mixture of equal parts sterilised water and baby shampoo) and gently rub the edge of your eyelids to clean them. Carry out these steps twice a day.

Antibiotics
If your Blepharitis does not respond to the above treatment than you may be prescribed a course of antibiotic ointments or creams. This may be needed to be taken for up to 6 weeks. The ointment or drops should be rubbed gently onto the edge of your eyelids up to 3 times a day.

If the blepharitis is not responding to this treatment or if there is an underlying cause of your blepharitis such as acne rosacea than you may be prescribed oral antibiotics. Most people respond well to this treatment and it is important to finish the course of antibiotics even if your symptoms get better.

Macular Degeneration

This is the most common cause of sight loss in the over 60s and occurs when the part of the eye responsible for central vision – the macula – is damaged.

Eyesight Problems Caused By Macular Degeneration (AMD)

AMD can result in a profound loss of detailed vision, causing eyesight problems and taking with it the ability to read, cook, see food, spot hazards, recognise faces and other actions most of us take for granted. The condition isn’t painful, though, and seldom leads to total sight loss, since only central vision is restricted. More than likely, enough side vision will be left to allow mobility and preserve independence.

AMD symptoms:

  • Blurring of central vision
  • Objects appear odd sizes and shapes
  • Straight lines may appear curvy or fuzzed
  • Lights, colours and shapes may appear to be there when they aren’t
  • Advanced AMD can cause a blank or dark patch in the middle of your sight
  • Reading, watching TV and identifying faces become difficult

Examination for AMD:

Both eyes are assessed – frequently only one is affected, or one is more affected than the other.

Eye drops are used to dilate the pupils and allow your optometrist to see more clearly into the eyes. Drops may cause blurring and sensitivity to light, but that is normal.

Macular Degeneration Treatment

Iris optometrists are qualified to carry out the examinations and will advise on subsequent referrals. Do not hesitate to ask for advice on this or any other eye health matters.

Diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is the term used for the changes that can happen at the back of the eye as a consequence of alterations in the network of blood vessels in those suffering with diabetes.

Eyesight Problems Caused By Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy can affect anyone who has diabetes, whether they are being treated with insulin, tablets or diet only. Generally, retinopathy has no obvious symptoms until it is well advanced, Which is why annual eye examinations are so important for everyone with diabetes. Early detection is the key to successful treatment.

What is retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy affects the blood vessels supplying the retina - the ‘seeing’ part of the eye. Blood vessels can become blocked, leak or grow haphazardly. This affects the way the retina receives the things you see and, if left untreated, can damage vision.

How can I protect my eyes?

Your best defence against retinopathy is to have an eye examination when your diabetes is diagnosed and once a year after that, as part of your annual diabetes review. It is important you do not wait until you notice a change in your vision as initially Diabetic Retinopathy may have no symptoms until it is advanced, possibly making treatment more difficult.

What does an eye examination involve?

A proper eye examination involves more than reading letters off a wall chart. People with diabetes need a thorough examination of both retinas.

In this eye examination, the person checking your eyes uses an ophthalmoscope to view the retina. They will first dilate (widen) your pupils using special eye drops. This allows them a clear view of the retina. The drops used to dilate your pupils can sting a little. Your eyes will also be sensitive to bright light for a while, so wearing sunglasses may help.

Remember - people with diabetes can have free eye examinations by their optometrist.

What is the treatment for retinopathy?

At Iris all our Optometrists are well trained in detecting Diabetic Retinopathy. If appropriate you will be referred to the eye hospital where the consultant will decide on how to proceed with treatment. This may involve simply being monitored regularly or they may decide to use a laser to treat the retinopathy.

Stroke affecting your eyesight

People who develop a stroke to one side of the brain may develop field loss to the opposite side. The extent of field loss can vary and is directly related to the area of the brain that has been affected by the stroke. Often people may lose half of their visual field meaning they can only see with either the right or left half of each eye. This is called a hemianopia.

A hemianopia can cause problems for when reading a newspaper or print. A person with right hemianopia misses the end of words or the end of the line and can result in changing the means of words and sentences. Sometimes using a marker at the end of the sentence or a post it note to indicate where the end of the line is can be helpful for some.

Treatment

There are various techniques that can be used to try to help or compensate for the various visual effects of the stroke. These include glasses, prisms, patching, magnifiers, and scanning information to name a few.

Rehabilitation

The focus in working with stroke sufferers is on rehabilitation and that also applies with their vision related problems. This rehabilitation is highly dependent on where the damage in the brain occurred as well as the type of stroke suffered and other existing health problems. Unfortunately for many people, especially those with loss of visual field, sight loss may be permanent.

Dry Eye

Dry eye is a fairly common eye condition caused by a problem with tears. Dry eye can make your eye feel dry, scratchy, irritated and uncomfortable. It primarily affects both eyes but sometimes can affect one eye more than the other. It can make your eyes feel gritty, like you have something in your eye, even when there may be nothing there.

Dry eye doesn’t usually cause long term problems with your sight but it is important to let someone know if your eyes are feeling dry, gritty and sore. In most cases dry eye just results in mild discomfort but in more severe cases it can become more painful and in extreme cases can cause permanent damage to the front of your eye.

Once you have dry eye you tend to always be prone to it, but it can be treated. Sometimes dry eyes can water a lot. This may seem strange but it is due to the poor quality of tears produced, so the eyes make up for this by producing a higher quantity of tears.

Causes

Dry eye is caused by a problem with your tears. When you blink you leave a thin layer, called the tear film, over the front of your eye. This tear film keeps the front of your eye healthy and helps the eye focus properly, giving you clear vision. If you don’t produce enough tears, or if they are not of the right quality or spread across the front of the eye properly than you may develop dry eye.

Dry eye is usually a natural symptom of getting older. As you get older your eyelids are less effective at spreading the tears fully each time you blink. Also the glands that produce the tears become less effective so the quality of tears is affected as you get older.

Modern environmental conditions can also exacerbate dry eyes. For example an air conditioned environment can cause greater evaporation of the tears from your eyes causing your eyes to feel dry. Also prolonged VDU use can cause dry eye symptoms as staring and focusing on a monitor for long periods mean you naturally don’t blink your eyes as much so don’t spread your tears as well over the front of your eyes.

Treatment

Although there is no "cure" there are various treatments that can help with dry eye and help them feel more comfortable.

Artificial tears
Most artificial tears can be bought over the counter from a pharmacist. Preservative free drops are advised because they contain fewer additives that could further irritate the eyes. If standard eye drops are not helping than gel tears may be advised. These are slightly thicker than normal drops and may last longer in the eyes, offering more protection. In more severe cases ointments are available. These are primarily used to protect your eyes from drying out overnight. They tend to be used overnight as they are sticky so may cause blurred vision so are used with regular eye drops during the day.

Reducing the draining away of tears
By stopping the tears from draining away it may help to reduce the symptoms of dry eye. This is done by blocking the small drainage channels with little pieces of plastic called punctual plugs.

Self care

  • Remembering to blink regularly when reading or staring at a computer screen for long periods.
  • Increasing the level of humidity in the air at home.
  • Wearing sunglasses outdoors to reduce exposure to to drying winds and sun.
  • Using nutritional supplements containing essential fatty acids may help decrease dry eye symptoms.
  • Avoiding becoming dehydrated by drinking plenty of water each day.

Summary

The above are the most common eye conditions. There are various conditions that can affect your eye health and eyesight so it is important as part of your general health screening to have your eye test at least every two years and if necessary more regularly. Our optometrists will advise you on all parts of your eye health from how diet can help your eye health to other lifestyle habbits so you can rest assured that you will receive the best care and advice from us.