What Is…

Aging and the Eye

As with the rest of the body, our eyes age too.  It is quite normal to experience a decline in vision from the age of 40 onwards. Some people will experience more serious eye related problems than others, leading to irreversible vision loss and blindness.  Vision loss doesn’t have to be an inevitable parting of getting older, be kind to your eyes and follow these tips today:

  • Eat a well-balanced diet
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Stop smoking
  • Wear sunglasses that block 100% UVA and UVB rays when outdoors
  • Wear safety goggles when working with hazardous materials or tools
  • Take regular breaks away from your TV, PC or phone screens and remember to blink!
  • Make regular, annual visits to your eye doctor

What is Glaucoma?

The World Health Organisation estimates that 4.5million people are blind due to glaucoma.  Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness and the number one cause of irreversible blindness in the world today.  They estimate that there will be 80 million glaucoma sufferers by the year 2020 – an increase of approximately 20 million since 2010.

Glaucoma is a medical condition that involves a build-up of pressure inside the eye causing damage to the optic nerve.  Usually inherited, glaucoma is a condition that becomes progressively worse over time.  Most people have no early symptoms or pain, which is why it is important to visit the eye doctor for an annual check-up.  Without treatment, glaucoma may cause permanent blindness in just a few short years.

The symptoms of glaucoma will vary according to the type that is diagnosed.  Symptoms include:

  • Loss of peripheral vision
  • Severe eye pain
  • Eye redness
  • A dilated pupil
  • Blurry vision (or seeing halos around lights)

In developed countries, approximately 50% of all glaucoma cases are undiagnosed.  This figure increases to 90% in developing countries.

What are Cataracts?

According to the World Health Organisation, cataracts are responsible for 48% of world blindness.  They describe a cataract as a clouding of the lens of the eye, preventing clear vision that will eventually lead to blindness if left untreated.  The number of people suffering with cataracts increases as the world’s population grows older.

The most common cause of cataracts is aging but other risk factors include diabetes, smoking, inflammation of, or trauma to the eye and exposure to ultraviolet light. Women are at far greater risk of cataracts than men and are less likely to have access to the necessary services to treat them.  It is possible for children to be born with cataracts and this is largely due to genetic disorders.

Some of the symptoms of cataracts are:

  • Blurry vision
  • Sensitivity to light or glare
  • Double vision when looking with one eye.
  • Colours appear faded

Once diagnosed, and after successful surgery, it is possible for sight to be restored. During a typical cataract surgery, the cataract is removed and an artificial lens is inserted in its place.

According to WHO and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, successful cataract surgery can improve a person’s productivity by 1 – 2 hours per day, makes them more independent and can also alleviate poverty.

Although cataracts are easily treated and cataract surgery considered a cost-effective solution, many people in the poorer areas of the developing world go blind or stay blind mainly due to a lack of access to affordable eye care services.

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetes is a global epidemic affecting more than 420 million people world-wide.  Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in diabetics.  It has been reported by the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness that almost two thirds of people living in Africa go undiagnosed for diabetes.

When left untreated, diabetic retinopathy damages the lining at the back of the eyes (retina) that transforms light into images.  Poorly managed blood sugar levels, combined with high blood pressure and high cholesterol increase your risk of diabetic retinopathy.  It usually affects both eyes and is the leading cause of vision loss in adults.

When blood sugar levels in the body go unchecked over a long period of time, small blood vessels that keep the retina healthy get blocked. The eye will attempt to grow new blood vessels.  As these new vessels begin to weaken, they leak blood into the retina. Scar tissue builds up and this leads to extra pressure on the eye.   This can lead to glaucoma and other problems that may result in blindness.

Most people who develop Diabetic Retinopathy only develop symptoms in the very late stages of the disease when it is often too late to treat successfully. Some of the symptoms may include:

  • A loss of central vision
  • Inability to see colours
  • Blurry vision
  • Black spots in vision

Making healthy lifestyle choices such as eating nutritious food and getting plenty of exercise is important. Regular monitoring of your diabetic condition and regular eye exams can help keep you and your eyesight in near perfect condition.

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