Four eye diseases that cause vision loss
Did your ophthalmologist diagnose you with a degenerative eye disease? What does this mean for you? Will it make you lose your eyesight? These are relevant questions, especially considering the fact that age-related or degenerative eye diseases are the leading cause of poor vision and blindness in the US according to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC). In this blog we will discuss the four most common degenerative eye diseases.
What causes degenerative eye disease?
Over 4.2 million Americans aged 40 years and older are either legally blind or have poor vision because of an age-related eye condition. Vision-reducing eye diseases develop because the eye structures deteriorate due to aging. However, some are preventable eye diseases. Factors such as genetics, traumatic injury, UV exposure, health conditions, poor diet and smoking can contribute to vision loss, particularly in adults 40 years and older.
Common types of age-related eye diseases
Approximately one in every three persons is diagnosed with some form of vision-reducing eye disease by the time they turn 65. The four most common causes of degenerative vision loss or blindness are briefly discussed below.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
The macula is the central part of the retina that allows you to see fine details close and far. AMD develops when abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina and leak fluids that scar the macula.
General symptoms include drusens (yellow deposits) under the retina, blurred vision, double vision, difficulty reading and image distortion. Dry AMD accounts for 70-90% of all AMD cases and usually affects both eyes. Both wet and dry AMD can lead to central vision loss.
Cataracts result from a clouding of the eye lens and is the primary cause of vision loss in people over 55. Cataracts develop slowly with age and progressively get worse. Images appear blurred or fuzzy and colors look faded to patients with cataracts. Incidentally, this eye disease most often occurs alongside age-related macular degeneration.
This is another disease associated with age and occurs from too much pressure build up in the eye that then presses on the optic nerve. Primary open-angle glaucoma is the most prevalent type of glaucoma and leads to peripheral vision loss. Other symptoms include visual field loss and blurred vision (late stages). Glaucoma may also cause permanent vision loss if the optic nerve is damaged.
As the name suggests, diabetic retinopathy develops in patients with diabetes and can lead to vision loss. Changes in the tiny blood vessels of the retina due to high blood sugar are the primary cause of diabetic retinopathy. Common symptoms are floaters, blurred vision, poor night vision and visual field loss.
Treatment options for degenerative eye disease
Vision impairment is linked to reduced ability to perform activities in everyday life and an increased risk of depression. So it's normal to have concerns after getting diagnosed with any of these eye diseases. However, various treatments are available depending on the disease type and severity.
Age-related macular degeneration treatment
Anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) eye injection and laser surgery are common treatments for AMD. Both can effectively reduce the number of abnormal blood vessels in your retina and slow leaking from the blood vessels. Treatment ultimately aims at slowing vision loss.
Cataract treatment options
Bright lighting, magnifying lenses, new eyeglasses, and anti-glare sunglasses are some first-line treatments for early-stage cataracts. Your eyecare specialist may recommend cataract surgery if it begins interfering with your ability to perform daily activities. Surgery involves removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with an artificial lens. For most patients, full vision is restored but some may still need to use reading/magnifying glasses.
Medicine and surgery can help stop further optic nerve damage but cannot reverse the disease. Your ophthalmologist may recommend eye drop medicine to lower fluid production in the eyes and reduce pressure on the optic nerve. Sometimes laser surgery is the best treatment option. The two types of laser surgeries are trabeculoplasty for people with open-angle glaucoma and iridotomy for those with closed-angle glaucoma.
Controlling blood pressure and blood sugar levels are two ways to stop vision loss. Eye injections such as steroids and anti-VEGF drugs are also prescribed to slow the growth of abnormal blood vessels in the eye and, ultimately, slow vision loss. Your eye doctor may recommend laser treatment or surgery when drug treatment has failed to produce the desired results.
Questions? Contact us today!
Explaining different degenerative eye diseases to your patients in a language they can understand can present unique challenges. However, Keeler is here to help. We've created this helpful guide to four common degenerative eye diseases that can be used as a reference.
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