Your eyes are a vital part of your body that help you see the things and people around you. Of the five senses, it is considered one of the most often used. This important organ works to take in and process visual images so that the brain can comprehend and gauge the distance of objects. The size of a human eye is equivalent to a ping pong ball. When it comes to eye diseases, there are a few different ones you have to worry about. Below is more information about these diseases, as well as what optometrists can diagnose.
The Anatomy of Human Eyes
The eye is composed of 3 layers. The white, outermost layer of the eye is called the sclera. The sclera is the protective clear film on top of the eyes. It is made up of fibrous, strong tissues and is fixed to the cornea. The second layer of the eye is called the choroid. The choroid is made up of blood vessels that help bring essential nutrients and oxygen to the internal parts of the eyes. The third layer is known as the retina. The retina is the innermost layer of the eye that helps convert light into something your brain can recognize. The retina is located near the optic nerve.
The iris is the colored part of the eye — the eye color you were born with. The circular part covering the iris is called the cornea. The pupil is the black dot found in the middle of the iris and helps let light into the eyes. Eyebrows, eyelids, and eyelashes protect the eyes externally. The eyeball rests in an orbit, also known as the eye socket. The eye socket is made of bone and encases the entire eyeball. Tears produced in the eyes help protect the eyes from an internal standpoint. They help flush out any irritants, dirt, and dust that tries to enter through the eyes.
Types of Eye Problems
The eyes are rather delicate compared to the rest of the body because it is surrounded by thin-layered skin. The thin skin is prone to aging and damage if not taken care of. As a result, this can affect the way your eyes work. Also because we use them quite often they can be easily overused. Both children and adults may experience eye diseases.
Children-Related Eye Problems
Some common types of eye disorders found in children are a lazy eye, crossed eyes, and
blurred vision. Blurred vision can be caused by astigmatism or another type of refractive error. Nearsightedness is the most common type of eye disorder that school-age children experience. Lazy eye, also known as amblyopia, occurs when the eyes and brain do not work together. Consequently, the visual information in one of the eyes is ignored by the brain and this can cause severe vision development problems in the neglected eye.
Premature babies and low birth weight babies are more prone to developing lazy eye than their healthier counterparts. The medical term for crossed eyes is called strabismus. This disorder occurs when both eyes are not aligned symmetrically or are crossed. People with crossed eyes are not able to look at the same direction concurrently. Those with a family history of strabismus are susceptible to developing it.
Adult-Related Eye Problems
Adults experience a wider range of potential eye problems as they grow older or get sick. Minor eye problems that adults are usually afflicted with are refractory disorders like astigmatism, farsightedness, nearsightedness, and presbyopia. More serious eye problems associated with adults are macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma. Macular Degeneration is a condition where part of the retina (called the macula) becomes atrophic. This eye disease can cause permanent loss of vision. Those with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, poor blood sugar control, and those who smoke are prone to getting macular degeneration.
Cataracts develop mainly in people over the age of 60. They are the formation of a cloudy film that covers the normally clear lens of the eyes. As a result, vision becomes blurry and foggy. It can cause poor night vision to develop as well. Glaucoma damages a person’s optic nerves which can lead to irreversible vision loss. The optic nerves are damaged by the accumulation of pressure buildup inside the eye. There are several reasons why high eye pressure (known as ocular hypertension) occurs. The main culprits are when the eye produces too much aqueous fluid or when the eye drains aqueous fluid too slowly. Also, specific drugs and eye injuries can affect the pressure in a person’s eyes.
Older individuals with a family history of glaucoma are prone to getting this disorder. There are several types of glaucoma. They are primary angle open glaucoma, primary angle closure glaucoma, developmental glaucoma, and secondary glaucoma.
When to See an Eye Care Specialist
It is always good practice to see an eye care specialist regularly to monitor the health of your eyes. An annual eye exam and checkup are important for both adults and children. Those with a family history of eye diseases, such as glaucoma and cataracts, are encouraged to make more visits to the eye doctor. If you have experienced any feelings of discomfort, strange sensations, and visual impairments in the eyes, you should see a doctor right away.
Other visual impairments that warrant a trip to the eye doctor’s office include seeing black spots, floating rainbows, floating spider webs, and flashes of light. If the eyes are bleeding, red, swollen, itchy, burning, and there is discharge, this could indicate an eye infection. Eye infections and symptoms should be treated right away by an eye care specialist. If you experience frequent migraines and headaches, this can mean that the condition of your eyes and vision are changing and it is crucial to visit a doctor to your eyes checked out.
Who Can Diagnose and Treat Eye Problems?
Health professionals who are qualified to diagnose and treat eye diseases are optometrists and ophthalmologist. Ophthalmologists complete 4 years of medical school and perform 4 years of residency training. Optometrists complete 4 years of optometry school and 1 year of residency training. Ophthalmologists have the title MD (a doctor of medicine) attached to their name and optometrists have the title DO (a doctor of osteopathic medicine) attached to their name. Optometrists can diagnose conditions, prescribe medications and treat most eye diseases.
Optometrists vs. Ophthalmologists
Ophthalmologists are recommended to individuals who have serious eye diseases like Macular Degeneration and Diabetic Retinopathy. They are ideal for individuals who need a lot of eye maintenance and monitoring. Ophthalmologists are also a good choice for those who are considering laser or other types of eye surgery. Optometrists are perfect for those who want to get a vision test, get contacts, fitted for prescription glasses, vision therapy, and eye exams. They are also skilled at detecting more serious eye diseases and injuries in a patient and referring them to the necessary specialist. Optometrists do an exemplary job in diagnosing and treating nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatisms.
Optometrists offer several types of vision assessments to their patients. The first type is called a visual acuity test. For this type of test, the doctor will have the patient read letters off a chart to determine how well objects are seen from different distances. The second type of vision assessment involves the use of a retinoscopy. The optometrists use a retinoscopy to measure the patient’s eyes to see if there are any refractive errors. The third test that optometrists use is called a refraction test.
A refraction test helps the eye care specialist determine what type of eyeglass prescriptions the patient needs. A refraction test checks to see if the patient has any vision problems, such as hyperopia and myopia. It will even show if the patient has perfect 20/20 vision. Another test that optometrists often conduct is called the keratometry test. This kind of test measures the shape and curve of the eyeball which helps to determine if the patient has any imperfections in the curvature of their eyes.
A Peripheral Visual Field Test is also used by optometrists to determine the quality of a patient’s peripheral vision. There are various versions of this type of test and it works to test a person’s side vision. One popular Peripheral Visual Field Test is known as the Tangent Screen Exam. The Intraocular Pressure Measurement is another important eye assessment utilized by an optometrist. This test checks to see if there is any abnormal pressure in the eye. The presence of abnormal pressure in the eyes may be an early sign of glaucoma.
Treatment Options for Eye Disorders
Once the tests are completed, the optometrist will assess the results and make the proper diagnosis. The optometrist will then treat the problem accordingly. If a patient has impaired vision, the doctor will prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses upon the patient’s request. If a patient suffers from glaucoma, the optometrist is able to prescribe medicated eye drops to treat the condition. Some effective types of eye drops that are used to treat glaucoma are prostaglandins, Beta-blockers, and carbonic anhydrase inhibitors.
Prostaglandins are once a day eye drops that help relieve pressure in the eyes by relaxing the muscles inside the eyeball. Beta-blocking eye drops help reduce fluid production in the eyes; thus, reducing ocular pressure that accumulates inside the eyes. Carbonic anhydrase inhibitor eye drops also work like Beta-blocking eye drops and helps lessen fluid production in the eyes. Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors used for treating glaucoma also comes in pill form.
If a patient is just developing cataracts, the optometrist will have the patient come in every six months for a checkup. The optometrist will monitor the patient’s cataracts and keep adjusting their prescription to improve their vision. When the optometrist is no longer able to adjust the prescription to improve the patient’s vision, they will refer the patient to a highly-qualified ophthalmologist for cataract surgery.
The role of the optometrist is very important. They can diagnose many eye diseases and they can treat some of them, too! They offer ways to help you maintain optimal eye health and prevent eye diseases from worsening. Optometrists can also uncover other health problems just by examining your eyes. Not only can they diagnose eye diseases but they can diagnose other diseases in the body like diabetes and hypertension. To learn more, visit Southside Medical Center in Atlanta, GA. Contact us today to schedule your appointment!