Do we really need a National Eye Health Week? Surely we know how to look after our eyes? Apparently not. About two million people in the UK are living with significant sight loss, and about 50% of this sight loss is avoidable.
The single commonest cause of sight loss in adults is age-related macular degeneration (ARMD). It gets more common with age, and can sometimes run in families. There are two main kinds – ‘dry’ ARMD, which is the more common kind, but which takes years to cause serious eyesight problems; and ‘wet’ ARMD, which accounts for about one in 10 cases but which can cause much worse impairment and which progresses much more quickly. There is currently no specific treatment for dry ARMD, but wet ARMD can be treated with regular injections with a medicine called anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF), photodynamic therapy or laser treatment to destroy fragile blood vessels in the eye which can cause problems.
Retinal vein occlusion causes similar symptoms to ARMD, although it usually affects only one eye at any time. These include painless loss of vision, blurred vision or distorted vision (often starting with straight lines looking wavy). There are about 33,000 cases a year in the UK, and urgent treatment with anti-VEGF or steroid injections, or with laser treatment, can greatly improve the outlook.
Diabetic macular oedema is the most severe complication of diabetic retinopathy – damage to the layer of ‘seeing cells’ on the retina (the inner lining of your eyeball). As with wet ARMD and retinal vein occlusion, damage to the back of the eye results in fluid building up. This leads to a lack of blood supply to the retina, and the body releases chemicals linked to inflammation. These include prostaglandins and VEGF. VEGF promotes growth of new blood vessels, but these are very fragile and can bleed easily, causing more damage to eyesight. Laser or anti-VEGF treatment can help here too
While there have been significant advances in treatment for all these conditions in recent years, early treatment is crucial. Any sudden loss of vision, blurred vision or wavy lines in your visual fields should be treated as a medical emergency. So should an acutely painful red eye, which can be a sign of acute glaucoma; or flashing lights and new or worsening ‘floaters’ in your visual field, which could be a warning of retinal detachment.
But even better than getting early treatment is preventing eye problems in the first place. Simple but important tips include:
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.