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Common Eye Problems And Diseases

Common Eye Problems And Diseases

Robert K. Maloney (Ophthalmologist) gives expert video advice on: Are my frequent headaches due to vision problems?; What can cause temporary blindness?; What should I do if I lose my vision suddenly? and more...

Are my frequent headaches due to vision problems?

Headaches are normally not due to vision problems. They're due to all the stresses and strains of everyday life. They're due to migraines or they're due to something else. There are a couple clues, though, that headaches may be related to your vision. If you tend to get the headaches when you're doing intensive work, particularly reading, that's a clue that your eyes may be causing it. If you're actually getting a headache in your eyes or around your eyebrows, it's a little more likely that that's related to your eyes, although it still usually is something else instead.

What is "pink eye"?

Pink eye is the lay term for what we call conjunctivitis. What that basically is a cold in your eye. The same viruses that can affect your nose or your chest, can get into your eyes and make your eye red, watery, irritated and weepy.

What causes pink eye?

Generally pink eye will cause your eyes to be scratchy, irritated, and watery. Usually pink eye goes along with some kind of head cold. You'll typically have some congestion, maybe a cough, and there'll usually be somebody you've been around who's got it as well. If that's the case you can be pretty sure it's pink eye. The main thing about pink eye, since we can't cure it, is to prevent spreading it to other people. It's spread because you touch your eyes or your tears. It gets on your hands, then you touch somebody else, or you touch something like a doorknob that they touch, then they rub their eyes. It's what we call person-to-person direct contact. So, if you have pink eye, it's important not to spread it. Wash your hands frequently, don't share towels or other objects with people, and try to stay away from people as much as possible. Try to stay home from work if you can.

What are the most common treatments for pink eye?

Unfortunately, just like the common cold, there not really any good treatments for pink eye. Cool compresses will help, but there's no antibiotic for example that will cure it, you'll just have to wait until it goes away, which usually takes about a week.

What is "astigmatism"?

Astigmatism means your eye's not round, like a basketball, the way it's supposed to be, but is instead oval-shaped, like a football. The problem with astigmatism is it blurs your vision far away and up close, both.

What can cause temporary blindness?

The carotid artery is the main artery that feeds blood to your brain and your eye. There is something called plaques that can occur in the corroded artery. It is a form of atherosclerotic vascular disease. These little plaques can break off and go down through the corroded artery and end up in your eye. When that happens you have sudden onset of temporary blindness lasting anytime from maybe 3 seconds up to even 24 hours. It is terrifying because you lose your vision and then it comes back. If you have episodes like that where you go suddenly blind and then it comes back, you need to see both your eye doctor and your internist because that can be a sign of a potentially serious disease that could be a warning sign of a brain stroke yet to come.

What should I do if I lose my vision suddenly?

If you lose your vision suddenly, there are generally three possible causes. One is you have a retinal detachment that is that the retina, the inner layer of your eye is peeled off. Well, that is an emergency but it can usually be partially fixed by surgery. The second common cause, relatively common cause is what we call vascular disease. One of the blood vessels that feeds the eye or the nerve to the eye gets plugged up. The eye loses its blood supply and the tissue dies either permanently or it is temporarly impaired and the vision comes back. The third possible cause and this is by far the best thing that may have happened is what we call an ophthalmic migraine. Certain types of migraine headaches are proceeded by vision impairment. And usually that produces jagged lines, different colors. There may be a vibrating or scintillating quality and those vision changes are often followed by a headache. That fortunately tends to be very benign because the vision gets blurry or disappears for ten or fifteen minutes then comes back to normal. If that happens to you it's certainly worth seeing a doctor anyway because there are certain conditions in the brain called an arterio-venous malformation that are on rare occasions associated with this. So all of these conditions would lead to you seeing an eye doctor as quickly as possible.

What is a "sty"?

A sty is a plugged up tear gland in the edge of your eyelid. It's basically a pimple of your eye. And just as sweat glands get plugged up on your face, if a tear gland gets plugged up, it gets swollen, infected, red, irritate, hot, painful.

What vision tests should my child get?

It's really worth having your child examined by an eye doctor, preferably before the age of one, and certainly by the age of two to make sure the eyes are properly aligned, and to make sure the child's eyes are focusing properly. With proper alignment and proper focus, both eyes will develop normally and see normally. It'll avoid your child having a lazy eye. Now the way your child's eyes are tested depends on the child's age. As a one year old, you can't ask them to read an eye chart, and so the doctor will have him follow objects. He may take out his keys and have the child follow his keys, or he may have a toy or doll, something the child will look at. As the kids get older they can recognize pictures on an eye chart. We have picture charts with ducks or birthday cakes. Then, once they get to be about five or six, we can give them regular eye charts because they can read the letters.

What are the most common pediatric eye disorders?

The most common eye disorder of kids is a misalignment of the eyes. We call it strabismus. That means the eyes either turn in, what's traditionally called cross-eyed, or turn out, which is what we called wall-eyed in lay terms. These are really important conditions to treat in kids, because when the eyes point different directions, the brain is seeing two different things, and the brain learns to ignore one eye or the other and it gradually turns that eye off permanently. So a kid who's got cross-eyes or misaligned eyes is gradually losing his vision in one eye, and that's why you really need to an eye doctor and get that taken care of.

What is "lazy eye"?

If the eyes are misaligned or if one's turned in or turned down, the brain learns to ignore the eye that's pointing the wrong way because it's giving a confusing image. The brain actually disconnects the nerves that connect that eye. That condition leads to what we call lazy eye; the medical term is amblyopia. It esentially means that that eye doesn't see well. And unfortunately, that loss of vision is usually permanent because the brain just learns to ignore it.

Can "lazy eye" be cured in children?

Now if the condition's caught in time, that eye can be strengthened and the vision brought back. The way we do that generally is by patching or covering the good eye and forcing the brain to use the bad eye. That can also involve surgery to bring the eyes back together. But with proper treatment, that lazy eye can be reversed, but that's why we've got to catch it while the kids are still very young.

How will my vision change with age?

The eyes change throughout life. Generally children or infants are actually farsighted. As kids age and get into adolescence, that's where near sightedness appears and all of a sudden they get glasses. As you continue to age, your vision stabalizes for a long time, but then when you get into your 4s, you gradually lose your reading vision. We call that presbyopia. And that's when we'd like to say when people's arms get short. They're holding things out here and they just can't quite get it far enough to read it. In the 40s and 50s reading vision continues to decline until finally in the 60s, 70s, and 80s people start to get cataracts, which is a haziness in the natural lens of the eye. So all of these different phases of life involve vision changees, and that's why the eye doctor is really a critical part of your eye health.

Why should I establish a relationship with an eye doctor?

As an eye doctor I want to be part of your life, throughout your life. I want to be there for your kids when they're young. I want to make sure their eyes are properly aligned. I want to be there for your adolescent who is getting glasses or contacts for the first time. I want to be there for you as you get into your forties and start to lose your reading vision, and then I want to be there when you're seventy and develop cataracts. Find a doctor you can trust and establish a relationship where they can follow you throughout your life and your children's life.