There is a large number of people in the world who have severe visual impairment or are blind. Most of them live in developing countries and can’t see because of poor and inaccessible medical care. When we talk about diseases that can lead to poor eyesight, in the first place we mean cataract, glaucoma and damage to the macula. On top of that, there are visual impairments (amblyopia) caused by unrecognized high diopters at an early age in children, optic nerve diseases, and eye trauma. More and more people suffer from diabetes in the modern developed world because of lifestyle and dietary habits, and this often leads to damage to posterior side of the retina, which, in turn, can lead to significant loss of vision and even blindness.
Cataract is the clouding of the natural lens in the eye that occurs with age, but can also occur in people under 50, especially in myopic people, diabetics, and even after eye trauma. Cataracts can’t be prevented, but it is important to diagnose them and operate in time to avoid possible complications, which occur most often when hard, mature cataracts are operated on. In those patients, recovery is also prolonged. The symptom of cataracts is blurred vision that develops gradually. The only treatment is surgery which lasts ten to fifteen minutes, is performed under local anaesthesia, and is painless and effective. In summary, the cataract should be operated on as soon as possible, instead of waiting for it to mature as was thought before.
Glaucoma is an eye disease in which the optic nerve is damaged. It commonly occurs with elevated intraocular pressure, but in ten percent of cases patients can have normal intraocular pressure (normotensive glaucoma). If not diagnosed and treated in time, glaucoma can lead to the deterioration of the vision field, loss of vision, and even complete blindness. Patients usually don’t have any symptoms for a long time, and when they do appear (eye pain, impaired vision), the disease has already progressed. That is why we call glaucoma the silent killer of eyesight. While the type called acute glaucoma is accompanied by severe pain and sudden loss of vision, glaucoma usually destroys vision slowly and gradually, without any symptoms. Therefore, regular ophthalmological examinations are very important, especially for people with family members who have glaucoma, because the disease has a hereditary component as well. Even though it can appear during childhood and adolescence, glaucoma most often appears after the age of 40, which is why everybody who is 40 or older should have an ophthalmological examination which includes the measuring intraocular pressure. Depending on the results of this examination and the family medical history, the doctor will determine how often a person should come for an examination.
• Eye diseases caused by diabetes
Diabetes is becoming ever more common, especially in developed countries. Diabetes damages the blood vessels in the posterior side of the retina, right in the centre for eyesight, the yellow spot or the macula, and this can lead to permanent damage. Diabetics also have a higher risk of retinal detachment and the occurrence of cataracts. Regulation of blood sugar levels is extremely important because, along with the duration of the disease, it is directly related to eye damage. With regular check-ups by an ophthalmologist and the appropriate therapy, it is possible to prevent loss of vision in diabetics. Naturally, healthy dietary habits, physical activity, and avoiding smoking and alcohol are key to regulating this disease.
• Macular degeneration (degeneration of the yellow spot)
The degeneration of the yellow spot or the macula — which is the centre of the clearest vision in the posterior side of the retina — affects more and more elderly people, but also people over the age of 60. The exact cause of the disease is not known, we know that there is a genetic predisposition and it is believed that smoking and excessive sun exposure may contribute to it, but this is not certain. Ultimately, the disease leads to loss of central vision while the periphery remains preserved. There are two forms of the disease called the dry and the wet macular degeneration. The first form, dry macular degeneration, leads to a gradual worsening of vision and doesn’t necessarily impair visual acuity significantly. It can’t be treated; vitamin complexes for the macula are recommended to try to slow its progression. The wet form of the disease leads to bleeding in the macula, a sudden drop in vision which may be preceded by distortion of straight lines — which is a symptom that requires you to see a doctor immediately — and the appearance of a fixed dark spot in the centre of the vision field. The treatment for this form of the disease must be started immediately with injections into the eye. Therapy is quite effective if started in time.