Over time, the natural lens can opacify and turn yellow. This is known as a cataract. A cataract is one of the most common causes of vision loss.
Many people have diabetes and sometimes the blood sugar can get into the back part of the eye into the blood vessels, and you can get what’s called diabetic retinopathy.
In addition, we all have a drainage system that helps to lower the pressure in the eye. As you get a little bit older, the drainage system may not work as well, and the fluid builds up and you can get a condition called glaucoma, which affects the optic nerve in the back of the eye.
The three most common causes of vision loss include cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma.
One of the most common causes of these conditions is eyelid inflammation, known as a blepharitis. As you get a little bit older and spend time in the sunlight, the eyelids can get inflamed. The oil glands along the eyelid margins can get clogged. When the eyelid oil glands get clogged, not enough oils are going to the surface of the eye and your tears evaporate much quicker. This causes extremely dry eyes, itchy eyes, and eye redness.
As you spend time watching TV or on the computer, on your phone, your eyes are kept wide open, not really blinking very much. That’s going to cause a little bit of dry eye. If you’ve been on a screen all day, your eyes are going to feel extremely dry.
One thing you can do is use preservative-free, over-the-counter artificial tears as a supplement, maybe three to four times daily.
Elderly patients are at most risk for these types of conditions because as you get a little bit older in addition to your eye oil glands getting clogged, you also don’t produce as many tears.
Twice a day in the morning and at nighttime, take a hot warm face towel when you’re washing your face and rub it along your eyelid margins for a couple of minutes. This will naturally give your eyelids a facial, and open up those oil glands, and allow the oils to drain to the surface of your eye to lubricate your eyes.
Glaucoma is a multifactorial condition in which there’s damage to your optic nerve that leads to peripheral visual field loss.
Patients who are most at risk for developing glaucoma include older adults, people with a family history of glaucoma and also elevated intraocular pressure.
The symptoms of glaucoma, which is damage to the optic nerve in the back of the eye, first starts with peripheral visual field loss. Early on, you may not notice your peripheral visual field loss. So it’s important to come to the eye clinic and get a test called a Humphrey visual field test, which allows us to determine how much peripheral visual field loss has been lost. If left untreated with elevated intraocular pressure, you may slowly lose all of your central visual acuity.
Treatments for glaucoma involve topical eye drops, laser therapy, oral medication, and glaucoma incisional surgery. The treatment of every single patient is very unique to the patient, and it’s multifactorial. It can be a combination of all of the above.
The recovery time for glaucoma surgery is extremely dependent on the type of surgery that you get.
If I perform a minimally invasive glaucoma surgery, such as a glaucoma stent, or a surgery in the angle, then the recovery time is really only about a week or so.
But if you have severe glaucoma and I’m doing incisional glaucoma surgery that involves opening the eye, or creating a drainage system, or a tube, then that takes about a couple weeks to a couple months.
When we are born, we have a natural lens that is extremely clear. As you get older, what can happen is, the lens can opacify and turn yellow, and this is considered a cataract. Cataracts are going to cause you to have blurry, hazy vision. Things may be more hazy and yellow. At nighttime when your eyes are dilated and you’re driving, you’re going to get glare from the oncoming lights and not be able to see as well.
Cataract surgery involves taking out the cataract itself and then putting in a clear lens that allows you to see. Cataract surgeries are performed typically one eye at a time. It takes about 10 to 20 minutes. The recovery is about one week. We typically do one eye maybe one or two weeks apart and the patients are extremely happy.
Nowadays there’s a standard lens that allows you to see extremely well at distance. With new technology there is what’s called premium multifocal lenses that allow you to be spectacle independent, seeing very up close, intermediate and even far away. These patients are extremely happy.
Most patients who get the multifocal premium lenses don’t need any glasses after cataract surgery.
Patients with no ocular symptoms, I totally recommend getting a comprehensive eye exam by either an optometrist or an ophthalmologist at the age of 40 years old. After the comprehensive eye exam, your doctor will tell you how often you need to follow up.
Patients with a family history of eye conditions may need to be followed up yearly after that. But patients with no ocular symptoms maybe need to follow every two to three years. But definitely when you reach the age of 65 years old, and you haven’t had an eye exam yet, you may want to go get checked for cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy.
If you’re having any red, itchy eyes, a foreign body sensation in your eye and are on the computer all day, it’s okay to take a break. Put in some preservative-free artificial tears, and come get your eyes checked with us. Definitely do this by the age of 40 years old, to help prevent some serious conditions from happening in the eye.
Lightly edited for clarity.
Watch the San Diego Health video with host Susan Taylor and Dr. Quan discussing how to keep your eyes healthy.