We do a lot more than do cataract surgery and sell glasses! Blurred vision, eye inflammation, floaters, red eyes, minor trauma – we do that. We will take care of your macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinal disease and much more. We are readily available for acute eye problems.
Macular degeneration is an all-too-common condition in which there is deterioration in the center of the retina, the macula. This area is responsible for your central vision, for seeing fine details and most of your color vision. We don’t know the exact ultimate cause, but we do know about many factors that affect a person’s chance of getting it and its severity. These include lifestyle habits, genetics and pigmentation. Like all other diseases, it can be mild, severe or anything in-between. Our doctors can tell you if you have macular degeneration, how severe it is, give you an idea about the risk of it getting worse, and what to do about it. If mild or moderate, there are steps we can take to make it less likely it will get worse. If severe, there are ways we can help you to use the vision you have (you can’t lose your side vision in macular degeneration).
Glaucoma is a condition in which the optic nerve, the tract that goes from the eye to the brain, becomes damaged, partly from pressure within the eye and partly from a lot of other things we only partially understand. Unlike cataracts or macular degeneration, which manifest themselves early with blurred vision, with glaucoma you can’t tell anything is wrong until it is very severe, in which case it is often too late to salvage vision. That’s why it’s so important to get regular eye exams that include dilating the pupils. The strategy in treating glaucoma is to lower the eye’s internal pressure. We can do this with drops, laser or surgery. If you have glaucoma, we can almost always prevent vision loss or keep it from getting worse, but we have to find it to treat it. That’s why eye exams and careful follow-up of glaucoma are so important.
Diabetic Eye Disease
Diabetes can damage your vision. That is not news to anyone. That is why it is so important for diabetics to get an annual eye exam with dilation of the pupils every year. Risk factors for getting diabetic eye damage or it getting worse are poor control of the blood sugar, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels. Diabetes affects vision mostly by damaging the retina. It causes poor circulation to the retina, which can cause parts of it to malfunction or die, swelling of the retina, bleeding, and retinal detachment. We don’t treat diabetic eye disease at Leader Heights Eye Center – we leave that to our expert retina colleagues. But we can do your annual screening for diabetic changes, follow mild disease and send you to the very best retina specialists when you need treatment.
Thyroid-Related Ophthalmopathy (Graves’ Disease)
Graves’ disease is an “autoimmune” disease (one in which the patient’s own immune system attacks certain areas of the body) that can affect the thyroid gland, the tissues around the eye, or both.
The thyroid gland, located in the front of the neck, produces hormones that regulate your body’s metabolism (the process by which the body transforms food into energy). In Graves’ disease, the thyroid often is overactive. Some symptoms of an overactive thyroid are weight loss despite a good appetite, nervousness, rapid pulse, and sweating. The over-active thyroid can be treated with radiation or surgery.
Some eye problems associated with the disease are:
- Eye protrusion: This occurs when the muscles around the eyes swell, which pushes the eye forward. People with this condition looks as if they are staring.
- Eyelid retraction: The muscle that raises the eyelid becomes inflamed and/or over-active. The eyelid rises above the top of the colored part of the eye (iris). This worsens the cosmetic appearance of the eye protrusion and vice-versa. You can get lid retraction from an over-active thyroid alone, even without Graves’ disease.
- Dry eye: Because of protrusion and eyelid retraction, the eyes are more exposed to the air. This causes blurred vision, light sensitivity, dry eye, excessive tearing, irritation, and inflammation.
- Double vision: Muscle swelling or scarring may cause double vision.
- Eyelid swelling: can cause the tissue around the eyes to bulge forward.
The eye problem that is most feared is compression of the optic nerve, the nerve that goes from the eye to the brain. Untreated, this can cause permanent loss of vision. It is important that patients with Graves’ disease report decreased vision to their eye doctor promptly.
Graves’ disease is diagnosed by blood tests and often a CT or MRI of the eye sockets (orbits).
These problems are treated by non-surgical and surgical methods. Non-surgical methods include taking steroid medications by mouth to control swelling and inflammation, wearing sunglasses to relieve light sensitivity, prisms in the eyeglasses to relieve double vision, and applying lubricating ointment to relieve dry eye. Surgical methods include repositioning the muscles that move the eye or raise the eyelid, removing scarred tissue, and relieving compression on the optic nerve to preserve sight. Surgery on the eyelids or eye muscles must wait until the disease becomes inactive and there is no change to the patient’s condition for six months.
It is important to note that cigarette smoking worsens the eye manifestations of Graves’ disease.