Understanding Eye Disorders

Eye Disorders

There are a variety of things that can go wrong with the eye and its ability to function correctly and provide clear vision. Below we’ve listed some of the more common conditions that affect our patients. To keep your eyes their healthiest, and identify eye disorders before they create vision impairment, it is important to receive thorough annual eye examinations. If you are due for your annual exam, contact Dr. Martinez today for your personalized eye appointment.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a disease that reduces your central vision. AMD is one of the most common causes of vision loss among people over age of 60. Most patients do not go blind because AMD affects only the center of your vision. However, AMD does minimize your ability to perform activities that require fine, central vision. The macula is in the center of the retina, which is responsible for your central vision. Central vision enables you to read and drive, as well as other activities that require sharp vision. AMD is a painless disease. The most common symptom of AMD is blurred vision, which may develop into a large blurred spot in your line of vision if the condition worsens. You may also begin to notice that you require an increasing amount of light when you read, or that you begin to hold newspapers or books closer and closer to your eyes as you read.

Amblyopia is more commonly known as a “lazy eye.” Amblyopia typically develops during childhood. If one eye is stronger than the other or the eyes cannot focus together, vision may be blurred. In order to minimize this blurred vision, the child naturally tends to use only one eye. As the dependence on this eye increases, the unused eye becomes progressively weaker as the nerves deteriorate. Amblyopia is characterized by eye misalignment, uncoordinated eye movement, little to no depth perception, or squinting of one eye while focusing. Amblyopia can be treated if it is discovered at an early enough age. If your child is demonstrating any of these symptoms, you should seek treatment immediately.

Angle Closure Glaucoma
The optic nerve connects the retina to the brain. If the optic nerve is damaged or deteriorating, your vision will suffer. The anterior chamber is between the cornea and the iris. A clear fluid flows through the anterior chamber in order to nourish nearby tissues. This fluid leaves the anterior chamber at the angle where the cornea and iris meet. If the fluid becomes blocked at the front of the eye, it cannot reach the angle in order to leave the eye. As a result, pressure increases inside the eye and angle closure glaucoma develops. The symptoms of angle closure glaucoma are easy to detect. They include blurred vision, redness in the eye, severe pain in the eye, nausea and vomiting, headaches, and swelling around the eye. If you notice any of the symptoms of angle closure glaucoma, you need to have your eye drained immediately. Although the disease can be treated, it is considered a medical emergency.

Astigmatism may cause varying degrees of focusing problems. Astigmatism is caused by an unequal curvature of the cornea, anterior lens, or posterior lens. Most cases of astigmatism do not require any major treatments. Patients are able to minimize the effects of astigmatism with glasses or contacts.

A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens. Cataracts occur naturally as you age. It is estimated that half of Americans over the age of 65 have cataracts. Cataracts cause cloudy or blurred vision, sensitivity to light, the appearance of halos around lights, poor night vision, or frequent changes in your eyeglass or contact lens prescriptions. Depending on the stage of the cataracts, they may be treated with eyeglasses or contacts. However, if the cataracts continue to develop and eventually cause vision problems, you may need surgery to replace your natural lens with an artificial intraocular lens (IOL).

A chalazion is a small lump that looks like a pimple. This lump can form on around eye if the oil-producing glands surrounding your eye become clogged. The chalazion starts out as a small lump that may irritate you a little. If this lump becomes infected, it can cause a great deal of discomfort and cause other problems. Your eye may become swollen and your vision can become blurred. In most cases, chalazions do not develop into major issues. They can usually be treated with a warm towel and gentle massage to loosen the clogged glands. More severe cases may require the chalazion to be drained.

Chemical Eye Injury
Chemical eye injuries can occur at the workplace or through use of many household cleaners and other products. Exposure to chemicals may result in blurred vision, excessive tearing, redness, or burning. The most common products that cause chemical eye injury include ammonia, disinfectants, cleaners, bleach, and weed killers. Although most chemical exposure can be resolved by a simple flushing of the eye with water, some direct exposure could cause serious damage to your eye or its nerves. If this is the case, you should seek medical attention before you sustain permanent injury.

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) Retinitis
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a virus that can be found in most of our bodies. CMV is usually inhibited by the body’s immune system. However, when the body’s defenses are down CMV may cause serious problems. CMV will affect the retina by a painful inflammation that can lead to blindness. If CMV is discovered in its early stages, it can be treated through a variety of options, including intravenous infusions, oral medication several times a day, monthly injections into the white part of the eye, or a small implant in the back of the eye.

Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)
Conjunctivitis, more commonly referred to as pink eye, is a very common and highly contagious viral infection of the eye. The conjunctiva is the protective membrane that lines the eyelid. Pink eye is a group of diseases that cause swelling, itching, burning, and redness of the conjunctiva. Pink eye spreads very rapidly from one person to another.

Pink eye is most often demonstrated by redness in the eye and severe greenish crust that develops while you are sleeping. This crust is often so severe that you may have trouble opening your eyes. Applying a warm washcloth over the affected area and rinsing regularly can often treat pink eye. However, you should seek medical attention if the condition worsens or an infection develops. Neglecting a severe condition can have especially severe impacts on children.

The Cornea and Corneal Disease
The outermost layer of your eye, the cornea, is a clear, dome-shaped surface that covers the front of the eye. The cornea is composed of various cells and proteins. Although most tissues in the body contain blood vessels to nourish or protect against infection, the cornea is nourished from the tears and aqueous humor that fills the chamber behind it. In order to properly reflect light, the cornea must remain transparent. Even the smallest particles of blood vessels can interfere with the performance of the cornea. The corneal tissue is composed of five layers – the epithelium, Bowman’s Layer, the Stroma, Descemet’s Membrane, and the Endothelium. Each of these layers protect the eye from germs and infection, as well as acting as the eye’s outermost lens. Your cornea is sensitive and is susceptible to a variety of diseases and other problems. These include allergies, pink eye (conjunctivitis), infections, dry eye, Fuchs’ dystrophy, Herpes Zoster (Shingles), Iridocorneal Endothelial Syndrome, keratoconus, Lattice Dystrophy, Map-Dot-Fingerprint Dystrophy, Ocular Herpes, Pterygium, and Stevens-Johnson Syndrome.

Corneal Abrasion
Most injuries to the cornea occur as the result of work related accidents. Sports injuries and car accidents are other common causes of corneal injuries. Most injuries to the cornea can be healed naturally. However, deeper corneal abrasions may result in an infection, which can lead to a number of problems including severe pain, blurred vision, tearing, redness, and sensitivity to light.

Corneal Transplant
If your cornea is unhealthy or becomes injured, your vision can become distorted, cloudy, and you may run the risk of blindness. Permanent damage to the cornea may require the cornea to be removed and replaced. Corneal transplants are fairly common with minimal complications. The main concern is that your eye will reject the new cornea, which can usually be remedied through medication.

Cystoid Macular Edema
The macula is part of the retina. The macula is the light-sensitive layer of tissue along the back of the eye. The macula focuses light, changes the light to nerve signals, and tells the brain what you are seeing. Without this central vision, you would not be able to read, drive, or do anything that requires sharp vision. Cyst-like spaces may begin to form within your macula, which causes the retina to swell and may develop into cystoid macular edema (CME). Cystoid Macular Edema is a painless disorder. As a result, patients often do not realize they have a problem until they begin to notice that their vision is increasingly blurry. Treatment will vary depending on how far along the disease is. Usually, cystoid macular edema can be treated with drops or anti-inflammatory medicine. More severe cases may require surgery to remove excess fluid build-up.

Diabetic Eye Disease
If you have diabetes, you may develop eye diseases associated with diabetes. Although some diseases are more severe than others, diabetic eye diseases can result in severe vision loss or blindness if they go untreated. Diabetic retinopathy, cataract, and glaucoma are just a few of the most common diabetic eye diseases.

Diabetic retinopathy
Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease, and is also the leading cause of blindness in American adults. Diabetic retinopathy results from changes in the blood vessels of the retina. These retinal blood vessels may well and leak fluid, or abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. If these changes are not treated, the patient may suffer vision loss or total blindness.

Double Vision
Double vision, also known as diplopia, occurs when you see two versions of an object that you are looking at. Double vision can be extremely confusing and annoying, as well as leading to severe headaches and migraines. Double vision is caused by refractive errors or by strabismus. Refractive causes involve light being split into two images due to a defect in the eyes’ optical system. Strabismus occurs when both eyes are unable to point at an object. Double vision can be treated by glasses or surgically straightening the eye.

Dry Eye Syndrome
Millions of people are affected by dry eye syndrome. Dry eye syndrome occurs when the eye is not able to lubricate and tear properly. Dry eye most often occurs as the result of aging, however it may also be caused by your environment, an eye injury, or due to other health problems. Dry eye syndrome usually involves more than just dry eyes. You may also experience itching, burning, redness, or extreme sensitivity to light. Dry eye syndrome may be treated with drops or ointments. More severe cases may require hormone replacement or plugging the tear ducts.

Excessive Tearing (Epiphora)
The lacrimal system, more commonly referred to as tear ducts, around your eyes helps keep your eye wet. The lacrimal duct which is responsible for tear formation may malfunction and lead to epiphora, a syndrome that causes the eye to be continuously wet. Tears drain off the eye through the tear duct. If the tear duct becomes blocked or plugged, this may lead to a number of problems such as constant tearing, infection, redness, or swelling around the eyes. The blockage may be caused by a mucous buildup in the lacrimal duct, an ingrown eyelash, allergies, or many other conditions. Epiphora can be treated, however treatment will vary depending on what is causing the blockage.

Farsightedness or presbyopia, refers to the ability to see objects at a distance clearly but having difficulty focusing on nearby objects. If you view nearby objects for an extended period of time, such as working in front of a computer screen all day, farsightedness may cause you to experience blurred vision, headaches, or eyestrain. Farsightedness occurs mainly because the eyeball is shorter from the front to back than it should be. In other cases, the cornea may have too little of a curvature. Farsightedness is easily treated with convex eyeglasses or contact lenses. A convex lens will bend incoming light more sharply, helping to focus on the retina.

Fuchs’ Dystrophy and Other Dystrophies of the Eyes
Fuchs’ dystrophy is a progressive eye disease. Women are more commonly affected by Fuchs’ dystrophy than men. Fuchs’ dystrophy usually does not affect vision until the patient reaches fifty to sixty years of age. Fuchs’ dystrophy is caused by a gradual deterioration of endothelial cells. This deterioration causes the endothelium to pump water out of the stroma less efficiently. As a result, the cornea may swell and vision becomes distorted. This can lead to pain and severe visual impairment. Fuchs’ dystrophy can be treated with drops, ointments, or soft contact lenses. More severe cases may require a corneal transplant.

Your optic nerve is a group of over 1 million nerve fibers that connects the retina to the brain. A healthy, functioning optic nerve is essential to good vision. Glaucoma refers to a group of eye diseases. These diseases can result in permanent damage to the eye’s optic nerve or even blindness. Glaucoma may be difficult to detect. At first, vision remains normal and there is no pain. Eventually, you may experience difficulty seeing objects to the side or out of the corner of your eye. If glaucoma remains untreated, you may eventually lose your side vision. Although there is no cure for glaucoma, the disease can often be controlled with medication, laser surgery, or conventional surgery.

Iridocorneal Endothelial Syndrome (ICE)
Iridocorneal Endothelial Syndrome is a group of three closely linked eye conditions, iris nevus syndrome, Chandler’s syndrome, and essential iris atrophy (ICE). ICE syndrome mainly affects women between the ages of 30-50. ICE syndrome is detected by visible changes in the iris, a swelling of the cornea, or the development of glaucoma. If ICE syndrome is detected early enough, the glaucoma associated with it may be treated through medication or surgery.

Keratoconus is a progressive thinning of the cornea. Keratoconus most often affects teenagers and adults in their twenties. Keratoconus occurs when the middle of the cornea begins to thin and bulge outward. This abnormal curvature inhibits the refractive power of the cornea, which leads to distorted or blurred vision. Keratoconus may also lead to swelling or permanent scarring of the tissue. In its early stages, keratoconus can be corrected with eyeglasses. However, if the condition worsens, you may require custom fitted contact lenses. If the condition continues to worsen, you may require a corneal transplant.

Lattice Dystrophy
Lattice dystrophy gets refers to an accumulation of amyloid deposits that develop throughout the middle and anterior stroma. These deposits gradually converge and cloud the cornea. If the amyloid deposits gather under the epithelium, the outer layer of the cornea, the epithelium may begin to erode. This can lead to an abnormal curvature of the cornea as well as severe pain. Lattice dystrophy can be treated with eye drops or ointment to relieve the pain.

Nearsightedness refers to the ability to see nearby objects clearly, but difficulty seeing distances. Nearsightedness is technically referred to as myopia. Nearsightedness occurs when your eyeball is longer than normal. Nearsightedness can be corrected with concave glasses or contact lenses.

Ocular Herpes
Ocular herpes, more commonly referred to as herpes of the eye, is caused by the herpes simplex virus. This recurrent viral infection often produces painful sores on the eyelid or surface of the eye. These sores can lead to an inflammation of the cornea. Anti-viral medication is required to stop the herpes simplex virus from multiplying and destroying epithelial cells. If the infection is able to spread deeper into the cornea, you may develop a more severe infection called stromal keratitis. Stromal keratitis causes your immune system to destroy stromal cells and may result in the loss of vision and blindness.

Ocular Histoplasmosis
Ocular Histoplasmosis is an eye disease caused by the inhalation of Histoplasma capsulatum. Histoplasma capsulatum is a fungus found in river valleys and soil where bird or bat droppings accumulate. Histoplasma capsulatum is then released into the air when the soil is upset. Although most cases of Ocular Histoplasmosis are mild and go unnoticed. As the disease develops, you may notice a disruption in your vision or abnormal blood vessels. Severe cases may lead to vision loss. If you suffer from an advanced case of Ocular Histoplasmosis, you may require the laser surgery photocoagulation.

Ocular Hypertension
Although your eyesight is good, you may still have high ocular pressure. Ocular hypertension can be measured through an eye exam. Ocular hypertension does not reveal itself through obvious symptoms. In most cases, the disease is discovered during a routine eye examination. High ocular hypertension is often associated with glaucoma, a more serious eye disease that can result in damage to the optic nerve or blindness. If you are diagnosed with ocular hypertension, your treatment will depend on the amount of pressure in each eye.

Ocular Rosacea
Rosacea is a persistent skin disease that usually occurs on the face, and may possibly spread to the eyes. Rosacea is characterized by redness, bumps, and pimples. Extreme cases may cause a thickness to develop on the nose. Although more women are affected by rosacea, the most severe cases occur in men. Approximately 50% of patients who are affected by rosacea experience complications with their eyes. In most of these cases, the eyes may redden, burn, or tear excessively. Rosacea may also lead to infections of the eyelids. Rosacea can be treated with a topical antibiotic, such as metronidazole, that the patient applies to the affected areas of the skin. In more severe cases, or when the eyes are affected, the patient may be prescribed an oral antibiotic.

Perennial Conjunctivitis
Perennial conjunctivitis is common, a year-round allergic reaction. Perennial conjunctivitis is often triggered by substances that patients may experience anytime of the year such as animal feces, dust, or assorted chemicals. The symptoms of perennial conjunctivitis are similar to those of seasonal allergies, such as nasal or throat complications. A patient’s eyes may exhibit redness, excessive watering or tearing, swelling, or pain such as itching or burning. Perennial conjunctivitis cannot be cured however some treatments are available to help alleviate the symptoms of the disease. Some patients control the disease with allergy shots, eye drops, oral antihistamines, or other treatments.

Presbyopia is an eye condition that typically occurs after you have reached 40 years of age. Presbyopia occurs naturally as the natural lens of the eye gradually loses its flexibility. As a result, you may have trouble focusing on up close objects. As you age, you may notice that you are having difficulty reading fine print, such as newspapers, books, or menus. As a result, you may hold these objects closer to your face in order to read. If you have been doing this, you should contact an experienced ophthalmologist to evaluate your vision. Presbyopia can be treated with bifocal glasses or contact lenses. Some patients choose to replace the eye’s natural lens through a procedure known as Conductive Keratoplasty or CK.

A pterygium is a small, pink, triangular-shaped tissue that grows on the cornea. Some pterygia may slowly grow on the cornea throughout your life, while other pterygia may stop growing. In extreme cases, the pupil of the eye may be covered by a pterygia. The majority of pterygium cases exhibit no symptoms at all, and do not require treatment. However, some cases of pterygium may occasionally become inflamed although these cases are typically more irritating than painful. If the pterygium becomes too large, it may change the shape of the cornea and lead to visual complications.

Ptosis refers to a sagging or drooping of the upper eyelids. Ptosis usually occurs naturally as the result of aging. However, in cases where diabetes or high blood pressure are present, the blood or nerve supply to the eye muscles can be affected. As a result, the nerves around the eyes may begin to degenerate. The drooping and sagging eyelid may block your pupil. This can lead to blurred or double vision. Extreme cases may completely block your vision. The methods used to treat ptosis will vary depending on the circumstances. The most aggressive treatment is necessary for young children who experience ptosis. When ptosis occurs in adults, the treatment will depend on whether the ptosis was caused by another eye disease or excess skin.

Retinal Detachment
Serious visual complications can arise from a detached retina. The retina may detach from the eye’s outer supportive layer because of a tear in the retina. As a result, the retina may separate from the wall of the eye. A retinal detachment is usually discovered by the patient complaining of sudden changes of vision, such as blurriness, flashes of light, or blind spots. If you experience retinal detachment, the detachment must be repaired and you may require an emergency procedure. If the detachment is not repaired, you may completely lose your vision.

Seasonal Allergic Conjunctivitis
Most patients who suffer from seasonal allergic conjunctivitis are affected when pollens and molds are at their peak. This is typically during late spring, summer, and early fall when. The most common symptoms of seasonal allergic conjunctivitis are sneezing, and a runny nose. The eyes may also exhibit itching, redness, excessive tearing, or swelling. Although there is no cure for seasonal allergic conjunctivitis, you can be administered allergy shots, which may help boost your immunity. You may also receive eye drops, oral antihistamines, or vasoconstrictors.

Sjogren’s Syndrome
Sjögren’s syndrome, pronounced “show-grins,” is an autoimmune disease, which means that the disease causes the immune system attack the cells of the body. Sjögren’s syndrome causes the immune system to attack the body’s moisture-producing glands. This causes extreme dryness of the mouth and eyes. The symptoms of Sjogren’s Syndrome are dry eyes, dry mouth, dry skin, rash, thyroid problems, thyroid problems, as well as joint and muscle pain. Typically, an ophthalmologist does not discover Sjogren’s Syndrome. Because the disease may affect so many parts of the body, Sjogren’s Syndrome may be discovered any type of doctor. Each case of Sjogren’s Syndrome is unique, therefore treatment of the disease will depend on what parts of the body are most affected.

Spots & Floaters
The majority of people see spots and floaters from time to time. They are best described as tiny dots that drift across your field of vision, when you try to focus on them they slowly drift away and disappear. Although spots and floaters are common, if you begin to see them more often, or if they increase in size or amount, this may be the sign of a more serious problem. Spots and floaters are caused by small pieces of protein, dust, or other matter getting stuck in the inner part of your eye. More severe cases of spots and floaters may be a sign of retinal detachment, which requires immediate surgery.

Stevens-Johnson Syndrome
Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS) is a severe skin disorder that could possibly spread to the eyes. Stevens-Johnson Syndrome involves incredibly painful lesions on the skin as well as the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat. Stevens-Johnson Syndrome may also spread to the eyelids, where it can lead to severe eye problems. Treatment for Stevens-Johnson Syndrome will depend on the amount of areas affected by the disease. Eye drops, antibiotics, and corticosteroids may be used to treat the eyes.

Strabismus refers to a muscular imbalance of the eye. Strabismus can result in one or both eyes being out of alignment. You can be born with strabismus, or you may develop the disease later in life. Typically, patients who develop strabismus later in life exhibit an underlying vascular disease such as diabetes or high blood pressure. These diseases typically affect the nerves leading to the eye. The symptoms of strabismus include blurred vision, double vision, or an eye turning in the wrong direction (inward, outward, or upward), which causes the person to appear cross-eyed.

Your eyes are surrounded by small glands that produce oil. This oil is responsible for lubricating your eyes. If these glands somehow become infected, you may develop a small blister known as a stye. Styes are painful red blisters that lead to excessive tearing, blurred vision, the feeling like you have something stuck in your eye, or pus that oozes from the eye. In most cases, styes can be treated by administering heat to the affected area or with antibiotics. More severe cases may require surgery to drain or remove the stye.

Subconjunctival Hemorrhage
Subconjunctival hemorrhage refers to blood suddenly filling the whites of the eye. Subconjunctival hemorrhage usually occurs as the result of a sudden trauma to the eye. However, it may even occur as the result of coughing or sneezing. The most obvious sign of subconjunctival hemorrhage is a red patch of blood on the white part of your eye. Typically, this spot is painless, although swelling may occur, which causes soreness to the affected area. This spot will eventually fade away over the course of several days or a few weeks.

Thyroid Eye Disease
Thyroid eye disease is an autoimmune disease, which means that the disease causes the immune system attack the cells of the body. Thyroid eye disease attacks the tissue around the eye. This causes the eye to swell and gradually push the eyeballs outward. People with thyroid eye disease typically appear to be opening their eyes as wide as possible. This may also cause pain, double vision, sensitivity to light, or color blindness. Thyroid eye disease can usually be treated with eye drops, as well as wearing heavy sunglasses if your eyes become overly sensitive. Some patients may require surgery to correct vision problems that may arise from the disease.

The uvea is the center section of the eye, composed of the iris, ciliary body, and the choroid. Uveitis occurs when there is an inflammation or swelling of any part of the uvea. Uveitis is demonstrated by redness in the eyes, burning or itching of the eyes, discharge, excessive tearing, or extreme sensitivity to light. Uveitis can be treated, although the treatment will depend on the part of the uvea has been affected.

Vernal Conjunctivitis
Although vernal conjunctivitis is an uncommon form of conjunctivitis, its effect on the areas surrounding the eye is significantly more severe than the more common forms of conjunctivitis. The symptoms of vernal conjunctivitis include a thick, bad smelling, pus like discharge from the eye, and a scaly, bumpy growth on the underside of the eyelids. Unfortunately, vernal conjunctivitis cannot be completely eliminated. Patients may receive allergy shots in order to boost their immunity, as well as taking oral antihistamines, eye drops, or steroid drops.

The vitreous is a clear fluid that fills the inside of the eye. The vitreous can cloud, fill with blood, or harden if it becomes affected by any number of eye diseases. As the result, light entering the eye may be misdirected and not reach the retina properly. In order to correct your vision, the vitreous may be removed from the central cavity of the eye by a procedure known as a vitrectomy. A vitrectomy can be beneficial to resolving the affects of many eye diseases such as diabetic eye disease, retinal detachments, macular holes, macular pucker and vitreous hemorrhage.

Vitreous Hemorrhage
The vitreous is a clear fluid that fills the inside of the eye. The vitreous can cloud, fill with blood, or harden if it becomes affected by any number of eye diseases. As the result, light entering the eye may be misdirected and not reach the retina properly. A vitreous hemorrhage can cause serious visual impairment. Typically the result of trauma to the eye or a retinal tear, a vitreous hemorrhage occurs in the front of the retina. The most common symptoms of a vitreous hemorrhage are blurred vision, light flashes, and floaters. A vitreous hemorrhage may be left to heal itself while a more sever case may require a vitrectomy.