Dr M Aphane – Ophthalmologist, Floor 5 Suite 517 Medforum Mediclinic
The WHO’s theme for this year is “LOVE YOUR EYES” and 13 October is World Sight Day.
Visual impairment or blindness causes can be divided into two main groups – refractive problems which are managed mainly by Optometrist with spectacles; and eye diseases which are managed by the Ophthalmologist.
The aim of this discussion is to raise awareness so that the diseases can be detected early and thus prevent blindness.
Three causes of preventable blindness:
A normal eye has a lens that is clear. With aging, the lens can become opaque, and an opaque lens is called a cataract
Younger people including children can also develop cataracts. Diabetes is one of the causes of cataracts in the young amongst other things. What happens to vision when one has a cataract? It gets diminished to the point where one can end up seeing just light.
How would a patient explain it? Your vision is like one is looking through smoke or clouds.
Cataracts are successfully managed through surgery. The opaque lens is taken out and an artificial lens is implanted. This is a day procedure and vision gets restored almost immediately.
The eye has pressure within and that pressure has to be maintained at a certain level i.e it should not be high or low eye pressure. The high pressure can damage the nerve that we use to see and this can result in blindness. The problem with nerve damage is that it is irreversible, so to prevent blindness the high pressure in the eye must be picked up early when the damage to the nerve is still minimal.
Glaucoma can be treated medically i.e with medication, but if the medication does not control the pressure then an operation would be needed.
With the pandemic of obesity, diabetes is on the increase. Diabetes is a multisystem disease that affects mainly small blood vessels of the body. In the eye, many parts can be affected, but let’s focus on the Retina. The blood vessels in the Retina which is the innermost layer of the eye, others being the Sclera and the Uvea. The Retina acts as the film of the eye, just like the film of a camera.
AMD (Age Related Macula Degeneration)
This occurs with age and is most common among Caucasians. The part of the retina called the macula degenerates and is divided into two types:
- Dry AMD
- Wet AMD
Wet AMD is treated with intravitreal injections in the eye and or with laser.
Dry AMD is treated with antioxidants and vitamins. Lifestyle changes like quitting smoking and eating green leafy vegetables is encouraged.
Like all things, the chances of treatment success are highest when they are detected early so screening is key. Anybody with changes in vision should immediately seek medical help.
It is recommended that anyone above 40 years must see an Optometrist for screening.
Every diabetic patient should consult with an Ophthalmologist at least once a year. Depending on the condition of the eye the visits can be more than once a year.
School eye care for school-going children.
Screening by an Optometrist when one goes for spectacles.
There are days dedicated yearly to diabetes and glaucoma which can encourage one to go for free screening during those times.
Inter-departmental referrals should also be used eg diabetic patients should be referred for eye screening.
In conclusion, LOVE YOUR EYES well enough to have regular eye check-ups. Don’t wait until it is too late. The above-mentioned conditions can be treated successfully if detected early.