Refractive Errors and More: Information on Common Eye Conditions
At The Eye Clinic of North Dakota, our experienced eye physicians provide treatments for a wide array of eye diseases and conditions to help patients see their world more clearly. We help individuals find relief to common eye conditions such as corneal disease, flashes and floaters, dry eye, pink eye, eyelid conditions, and much more.
Refractive errors are a result of an irregularly shaped cornea. The most common refractive errors include nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. These refractive errors can be treated with contact lenses and corrective eyewear or through surgical procedures such as LASIK, IntraLASIK, or Custom LASIK.
Nearsightedness (myopia) occurs when the cornea is too steep in curvature, causing light rays to focus in front of the retina instead of directly on the retina. This results in nearby images being in focus, while distant images are blurred.
Farsightedness (hyperopia) occurs when the cornea is too flat in curvature, causing light rays to focus behind the retina instead of directly on the retina. This results in nearby images being blurred while distant images are in focus. Farsightedness can become progressively worse with age.
Astigmatism occurs when the surface of the cornea is irregularly shaped, causing light rays to focus on multiple areas within the eye. This can result in blurred or double images. This condition can also occur in conjunction with nearsightedness and farsightedness.
The cornea refers to the clear tissue on the outside of the eye. When this tissue is affected by disease, vision can become extremely cloudy and distorted. Some diseases may actually result in blindness. There are many types of corneal diseases, but the three most common are keratoconus, Fuchs' endothelial dystrophy, and bullous keratopathy.
Keratoconus occurs when the cornea becomes so thin that it takes on a cone shape. This disease can occur in one or both eyes and can develop rapidly or gradually. Fuchs' endothelial dystrophy is a hereditary disease that is characterized by an abnormal endothelium on the inner layer of the cornea. The endothelium is responsible for carrying fluids out of the cornea. When it is diseased, it cannot pump fluids out, causing swelling and cloudy vision. Finally, bullous keratopathy occurs when the endothelium has become so damaged that the cornea becomes permanently swollen.
Corneal disease can be treated by replacing the damaged cornea with donor tissue. Corneal transplant surgery can restore vision in most patients.
Diabetic retinopathy, also called diabetic eye disease, occurs in individuals who are suffering from type I or type II diabetes. Pregnant women who are diabetic are especially susceptible to developing diabetic retinopathy. The degenerative disease, which is caused by diabetes, results in severe damage to the retina and can lead to severe vision loss and even blindness if left untreated.
Diabetic retinopathy occurs in several stages, usually over the course of 20 years. In the first stage, the retinal arteries become weak and swollen, leading to macular edema. During the next stage, the swollen arteries become oxygen-deprived due to poor circulation. To compensate, the body creates new, weaker blood vessels that hemorrhage and leak easily, causing decreased vision. If the condition is not treated, it could lead to glaucoma and retinal detachment.
Diabetic eye disease is usually treated by a process called laser photocoagulation. During the procedure, a laser is used to seal abnormal blood vessels, which prevents leakage and further retinal deterioration.
Flashes and Floaters
Flashes of light and tiny floating spots in one's field of vision are usually harmless and do not require any treatment. Flashes and floaters occur as a result of the natural aging process. As we get older, the vitreous fluid in the back of the eye changes from thick and gel-like to watery. When this happens, small clumps of tissue that were once suspended in the gel begin to move around in the eye, casting shadows on the retina which a person perceives as floating shapes.
Flashes and floaters seem to become larger and more bothersome as an individual gets older and the vitreous becomes more watery. Individuals who experience new flashes and floaters or a large quantity of them should visit an ophthalmologist because it may mean that there is a greater problem, such as retinal detachment. Please contact The Eye Clinic of North Dakotatoday to schedule an appointment to see one of our eye care physicians.
The eyes need the correct balance of water, oils, and mucus to maintain moisture and lubrication, all of which are found in natural tears. When there is an imbalance in the tear system, individuals can experience dry eyes. Dry eyes can be caused by several factors, including age, diseases, certain medications, hormonal changes, weather conditions, eye strain, eye surgery, and contact lenses. Individuals with dry eyes can experience redness, itching, pain and discomfort, sensitivity to light, and blurred vision. Some people may even experience excessive tearing, which many people often do not associate with dry eyes. Excessive tearing occurs as a reaction from the body to compensate for lack of moisture in the eyes. However, since these tears are not made of the correct balance of fluids as normal tears, they cannot sufficiently lubricate the eye.
Dry eyes can be treated with artificial eye drops that compensate for the lack of tears. Because these drops are made of chemical solutions very similar to natural tears, they provide immediate relief for dry and red eyes, as well as other eye irritations. However, eye drops last for a very short time and must be reapplied at least every four hours. Eye drops can be obtained over the counter or by prescription and come in liquid, gel, and ointment forms. For more severe cases of dry eyes, our ophthalmologists can prescribe medications that are proven to promote tear production in the eye. Our eye care professional can determine which treatment option is best for your needs during an appointment at our practice.
Also known as conjunctivitis, pink eye is characterized by irritation of the conjunctiva, the thin membrane covering the eye that provides lubrication and protects the eye while it moves in its socket. The irritation can result from a viral infection, bacteria, allergies, dust, chemicals, or contact lenses. Pink eye causes redness, itching, and swelling of the eyelids, as well as a yellowish discharge.
Pink eye is highly contagious. The infection can spread from one eye to the other, and can even spread quickly from one person to another. Because of this, treatment has more to do with prevention. Individuals infected with pink eye should be extremely careful when washing their hands and wiping their eyes so as to not spread the infection elsewhere. Infected individuals should also refrain from sharing makeup. Those without pink eye should avoid close contact with those who are infected. Topical medicine in the form of eyedrops is usually prescribed to treat the condition.
There are many conditions that can affect the eyelids, including blepharitis, chalazions, ptosis, entropion and ectropion.
Blepharitis is a condition marked by eyelid inflammation due to a bacterial infection. Individuals with blepharitis experience irritation and crustiness on the eyelids, as well as tearing, redness, and drying of the eyes. Blepharitis is usually confused with pink eye because both have similar symptoms.
Blepharitis can be treated by applying warm compresses to the eye to loosen crustiness. An eye solution can be used to thoroughly cleanse the eyes. Antibiotic and lubricant eye drops can also be prescribed to treat inflammation.
Chalazions are pimple-like lumps that develop on the eyelid due to inflammation of an oil gland, and are often mistaken for styes. These bumps can grow to be red, warm, or painful over several days. Chalazions usually heal on their own; however, some patients find that hot compresses can help relieve discomfort. Patients with chalazions should not try to pop them for risk of further infection. If the chalazion persists for several months, it can be drained by an experienced eye professional.
ECTROPION / ENTROPION
Ectropion and entropion are eyelid conditions that are caused by relaxed tissue around the eyelids due to the natural aging process. Ectropion occurs when the eyelid folds out away from the eyeball, whereas entropion occurs when the eyelid folds in toward the eyeball. With ectropion, patients can experience dry eyes and excessive tearing because the eyelid is no longer able to keep the eye moisturized. With entropion, patients may experience corneal tearing and scarring as the eyelashes rub up against the eyeball. Both conditions can be treated with eyedrops to keep the eyes moisturized and protected, and surgery can be performed to correct sagging and folding of the eyelid.
Ptosis, also known as a "drooping eyelid," occurs when the eyelid muscle can no longer raise the eyelid. The condition usually occurs with old age, or as a result of stroke, diabetes, or eye trauma, and results in difficulty seeing. Ptosis can affect one or both eyelids and can worsen over time.
Ptosis can usually be treated with blepharoplasty or cosmetic eyelid surgery. During the procedure, excess sagging skin is removed and the eyelid muscles are tightened to produce a vibrant, less droopy eyelid appearance.
Learn More about Treatment for Eye Disorders at Our Practice
To learn more about common eye disorders and the treatments offered at The Eye Clinic of North Dakota, please contact our ophthalmologists today. We offer convenient financing options to help make your treatment plan more affordable.