In addition to prescribing glasses and contacts, Doctors of Optometry are trained and experienced in the treatment and management of ocular disease. From minor infections and corneal abrasions, to more advanced conditions like glaucoma and macular degeneration, optometrists are able to treat and manage them all.
Glaucoma is a disease that causes irreversible damage to the optic nerve located at the back of the eye. It causes progressive vision loss, and has the potential to cause blindness.
Vision loss begins in the periphery (side vision) and does not impact central vision initially. Because this slow process does not occur in the direct line of sight, and patients do not experience any other signs or symptoms, they only become aware something is occurring in advanced stages. In addition, it often effects eyes asymmetrically, so one eye may lead and mask deterioration in the other.
Glaucoma is best detected through a dilated eye exam, where it can be identified early in the process. Although a cure has not been identified, we can drastically slow it's rate of progression through the use of medication in the form of eye drops. Laser therapy or surgery are options available for more advanced cases, or in the instances where drops are ineffective.
Be sure to get an annual eye exam that screens for this. Any vision lost to this disease is irreversible.
Macular degeneration is a condition that affects central vision, and patients usually first notice distortions when reading.
Early macular degeneration is managed with diet and nutritional supplements, in order to supply the eye with specific vitamins and antioxidants. In addition to being examined twice a year, patients self monitor themselves at home with resources provided by their optometrist.
In more advanced cases, injections or laser therapy are required, and the patient is referred to an ophthalmologist that specializes in the retina.
Smoking significantly increases your risk of blindness from macular degeneration.
Cataracts are a normal aging process and cause discoloration and clouding of the natural lens inside of the eye. These begin developing much sooner than people realize, and just because you have beginning stages does not mean you require intervention. They are monitored over MANY years and do not require treatment until they begin to impact vision and daily activities.
Certain medical conditions and medications can cause cataracts to occur earlier and advance more quickly. These include conditions like diabetes and medications such as steroids (even in the form of nasal sprays).
Cataracts can be accelerated by UV damage, and it is suggested that everyone wears appropriate UV protection in sunglasses.
Once cataracts begin interfering with a patient's vision, a referral to an ophthalmologist is then made. Cataract surgery is an out-patient procedure, and can be performed in as little as 10-30 minutes.
Keratoconus is a condition in which the tissue of the cornea begins to thin, causing the cornea to change shape. In early stages, vision can be corrected for through the use of glasses and a referral for corneal crosslinking should be considered. As keratoconus continues to progress, the cornea continues to change shape and makes correcting vision through glasses impossible. At this point, specialty contact lenses are required.
Very advanced cases (where vision is no longer correctable with specialty contact lenses), require a corneal transplant.