Eye health in the spotlight

2019-10-09 06:01
photo: sourced Doctors warn that glaucoma causes permanent damage to the optic nerve.

photo: sourced Doctors warn that glaucoma causes permanent damage to the optic nerve.

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EYE AWARENESS Month is commemorated nationally from September 21 to October 18 to highlight and educate people about the importance of healthy eyes.

The campaign also aims to encourage people to go for regular eye tests.

Monique Snyman, an optometrist based in KwaZulu-Natal, encouraged the public to go for eye tests regularly in order to test for issues such as cataracts, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and glaucoma.

Snyman said cataracts involve intraocular lens (the lens inside your eye) that starts to opacify (go cloudy) as you age.

“Most cataracts occur due to ageing. However, certain systemic diseases, such as diabetes, or chronic use of certain medication, such as cortisone, can cause a cataract to develop earlier in life.

“Trauma/injury to the eye can also cause a cataract to develop,”she said.

The symptoms of cataracts include hazy or a misty vision which can have a yellow appearance.

People hold different views about cataracts. Some believe that once you undergo the cataract surgery there is a possibility that a patient will lose eyesight.

“Unfortunately, to remove a cataract, one has to undergo surgery and there is a lot that can happen during any surgery that can affect its outcome or success.

“Cataract surgery, however, is very successful surgery in most cases, and can help restore patients’ vision, whereas, if you leave the cataract, your vision will deteriorate progressively,” Snyman said.

Another issue that affects many people is age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This condition affects older people and involves the loss of the person’s central field of vision.

“AMD is a degenerative disease that causes central vision loss.

“There are two types of macular degeneration; Dry MD is the most common one and occurs due to the ageing process in the macular region of the eye.

“The second type, called Wet MD, is a lot more aggressive.”

Snyman said the difference between cataracts and AMD is that cataracts occur in the lens of the eye while AMD affects the back of the eye (retina).

Light comes into the eye and gets focused on the back of the eye (retina) by the lens. The point where the light is focused is called the macula.

“Unfortunately, macular degeneration cannot be cured.

“Protecting your eyes from UV damage as well as maintaining a healthy lifestyle and good eating habits is the only way to keep the macula healthy,” said Snyman.

The third affliction that affects eyesight is glaucoma.

This is an eye condition where there is an is an increase in the intraocular pressure inside the eye.

Snyman said that if glaucoma is left untreated, it can cause permanent damage.

“An increase in pressure inside the eye causes pressure on the optic nerve in the back of the eye. This causes permanent damage as any damage to a nerve is permanent damage.

“Your optic nerve is the communication pathway between your eye and your brain. Damage to the optic nerve due to glaucoma leads to peripheral vision loss and eventually can also cause visual acuity loss (loss of vision),” said Snyman.

“Unfortunately the most common type of glaucoma (Open Angle Glaucoma) usually has no symptoms (it is a silent disease). Hence it is of great importance to have regular eye examinations. As an optometrist, I advise the public to have their eyes examined once every two years.

“However, patients that have a family history of eye diseases such as glaucoma and MD, or patients with systemic diseases such as diabetes, should have an eye examinations once every year.”

If glaucoma is left untreated, it can cause permanent damage. Your optic nerve is the communication pathway between your eye and your brain. Damage to the optic nerve due to glaucoma leads to peripheral vision loss and eventually can also cause visual acuity loss (loss of vision),” said Monique Snyman, an optometrist based in KwaZulu-Natal,

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