Eye Conditions

During your routine eye examination your eyes can give a good indication of a number of health conditions which may be present. Not only can they show signs of eye related conditions such as macular degeneration or glaucoma, but they can detect more serious issues. Read on to find out more on this, which highlights the importance of attending your routine eye examination.

Eyes on Health, week 2 - Eye Conditions
Eyes on Health, week 2 - Eye Conditions

High cholesterol/Cardiovascular problems

Cholesterol deposits in the blood vessels at the back of the eye can be spotted during your sight examination. Eventually these deposits could cause blockages which lead to 'blind spots'. Up until that point there are no obvious symptoms. There is a lot of blood flow at the back of the eye and changes in the patterns of the ocular veins and arteries can also be linked to cardiovascular disease and stroke. It's important to remember that the back of your eye is a part of your brain.

Diabetes

High blood-sugar can cause issues within the small blood vessels at the back of the eye resulting in diabetic retinopathy which could lead to complete vision loss. Early changes in these blood vessels (e.g. tiny leaks from the damaged blood vessels) can be spotted during your sight exam.

Diabetes is treatable but it is very important that it is picked up early. An astounding 750,000 people in the UK have undiagnosed diabetes. (Source: Diabetes UK)

High blood pressure

One in three adults are affected by high blood pressure in the UK. Unfortunately it is often difficult to spot any symptoms. It is closely linked with heart disease, stroke and vascular dementia. The force of blood passing through blood vessels in the retina can cause hypertensive retinopathy. The walls of the blood vessels may thicken, narrowing the vessels and restricting blood from reaching the retina. In some cases, the vessel becomes swollen making its function very limited and causing bleeding behind the eye.

Arthritis

Forms of arthritis can affect many parts of the body including the eyes. Inflammation caused by this can be spotted during your eye examination.

Tumours

Tumours of the brain can be spotted during your eye examination. The optic nerve can become swollen due to pressure from the tumour. This often occurs during the early stages before symptoms such as nausea or headaches begin. Certain types of tumours can spread to the eye. This may sound worrying but again, it simply highlights just how important your sight examination is. Don't put it off!

Cataracts

As you'd imagine, the lens in the eye needs to be clean to work correctly. With age and certain conditions, the lens can gradually become cloudy which results in your vision becoming blurred. This can be spotted early during your sight examination. If a cataract operation is required, the cloudy lens is replaced with a plastic lens.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is caused by high pressure inside the eye. It can damage nerve fibres, which leads to vision loss and eventually, blindness.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness in the UK
Glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness in the UK

As you get older you are more at risk, but you're at a higher risk if the condition runs in the family or you are very short-sighted (myopic). Your eyesight may seem perfectly normal. In many cases there is no pain, even though your vision is becoming damaged.

The earlier the diagnosis the better so make sure you don't put off your next routine eye exam. Three tests are carried out to check for symptoms: The optic disc is checked closely. Your central and peripheral vision is assessed and the internal pressure is tested. That's the part of the test which blows a puff of air into the eye - a little uncomfortable for less than a second, but well worth it.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness in the UK
Glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness in the UK

Macular Degeneration

The macula is a small area in the centre of the retina which is responsible for central vision. As you become older, the cells can become damaged.

There are two types of macular degeneration, "wet" and "dry". The dry condition develops slowly, causing a gradual loss of central vision. There is no treatment available but visual aids and vitamins can help (please see our blog about eye supplements). The wet form develops more quickly and results in new blood vessels growing behind the retina, which causes bleeding and scarring. This can lead to sight loss.

Both forms are painless and tend to affect one eye which makes it difficult to notice because the "good" eye will compensate for loss of sight in the affected eye. Are you overdue? Book today.

Macular Degeneration destroys the central vision
Macular Degeneration destroys the central vision

How often should eyes be checked?

You should have your eyes examined at least every two years

You should have your eyes tested at least every two years, regardless of whether or not you have perfect eyesight. However, yearly tests are advised for anyone under 16 or over 70 who has diabetes or is over 40 years old with a family history of glaucoma. Six-monthly tests are advised for those under the age of 16 with certain eye conditions. If you ever feel your vision has changed or your eyes feel uncomfortable, never wait until your appointment is due, simply contact us or your GP immediately.