Ophthalmology, or eye care, is a medical field dedicated to diagnosing and treating eye diseases. Ophthalmologist’s consultation, whereby visual acuity, visual field, eye pressure and retinas are controlled, is sometimes part of the general health check. Some of the most common eye problems and their treatment options are described below.
Different eye diseases and their treatment
Visual acuity loss is a very widespread problem in the Western world. Although nearsightedness (or myopia) and farsightedness (hyperopia or the need for reading glasses) are not classified as eye diseases, they both have a negative impact on life quality. Fortunately, thanks to new developments in medicine, it is possible to improve visual acuity by means of simple and safe laser operations. There are many different methods available, such as Lasik, Femtolasik and Smile. During the laser operation, the topmost layer of the eye or cornea is reshaped so that the light beams will refract at the right angle. This leads to the recovery of visual acuity. If the cornea is too thin or its shape makes it unsuitable for a laser operation, or if the loss of visual acuity is too extensive, an artificial lens could be placed in the eye. The artificial lens can later be removed, if need be. In addition to that, ophthalmologists take care of diseases and problems that require more complicated treatment or even surgical intervention.
Strabismus, also called crossed eyes, is a condition in which the cooperation between the eyes is lacking – the eyes can be crossed always or only in some situations. Strabismus can manifest at any age. In children below one year of age, episodic strabismus may be evident as the cooperation between the eyes has not yet fully developed. This is considered normal. However, if you notice that one eye is crossed all the time, an ophthalmologist should be consulted. The reasons for developing strabismus include lazy eye or amblyopia, but also deficient visual acuity, genetic predisposition, traumas, and weakness of eye muscles. In case of amblyopia, early discovery and treatment are crucial. In addition to noninvasive methods (glasses, covering the eye, adhesive tapes, eye exercises), surgical methods are also used in treatment, especially when weak eye muscles are the culprits.
Cataract is a common disease in elderly people, however, the reasons for developing it are unfortunately not exactly known. A healthy eye lens is transparent and directs light to the retina. In case of cataract, clumps start to form inside the lens liquid and the lens becomes cloudy. The disease may affect only one eye or both eyes. In some rare cases cataract may be congenital or may develop as a complication of certain diseases (for example, rheumatoid arthritis, atopic dermatitis, or diabetes). The main symptom of cataract is painless progressive loss of vision. When the disease has progressed and starts to disturb everyday life, lens replacement surgery could be performed. During this operation, the cloudy lens is removed and replaced with an artificial lens.
Glaucoma is a chronic disease in which the intraocular pressure is increased. Increased pressure in the eye may damage the optic nerve and the visual field. In this disease, the production, movement and drainage of the liquid is disturbed and this leads to an increase in intraocular pressure, which may damage the optic nerve, which, in its own turn, may lead to the contraction of the visual field. Quite often glaucoma is not noticed in the early stage because the visual field starts to narrow from the edges. If not treated, this disease may result in permanent blindness. In order to maintain satisfactory vision as long as possible, glaucoma patients should be assessed and studied regularly. For glaucoma, eye drops, laser treatment and surgical interventions are used.
Macular degeneration or yellow spot disease is a common eye disease and the leading reason for blindness. Macula (“yellow spot” in Latin) is a region in the retina rich in photoreceptors. Thanks to these receptors we perceive our environment sharply and see colors. Macular degeneration leads to gradual loss of visual acuity and/or decreased visual field. First alarm symptoms include distorted vision and reading difficulties. As it is not possible to treat the causes behind the disease, prevention and early diagnosis are crucial. Different procedures, such as laser treatment, may slow down or postpone loss of vision.
Stye and chalazion are eye diseases that are, fortunately, not dangerous, but may still disturb everyday life. Stye (also called hordeolum) is an acute purulent inflammation of a fat or sweat gland in the eyelid that develops as a result of a blocked gland, foreign body, or trauma. Stye can be painful and appear suddenly, however, quite often it will disappear by itself. Chalazion (also known as meibomian cyst) can often be a complication of an inflammation of a fat gland, when the drainage of pus is blocked for some reason. Chalazions are generally painless. The healing process can be accelerated by means of a small operation, whereby the abscess is opened and pus allowed to drain. In case of recurrent styes or chalazions, an ophthalmologist should be consulted.
An ophthalmologist or eye doctor is a physician who specializes in eye disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment. During the appointment, visual acuity is checked, retinas are examined and intraocular pressure is measured, according to the patient’s needs. The ophthalmologist also prescribes additional tests or analyses, if necessary, and chooses a suitable treatment method. If the sole purpose of the visit is to check visual acuity or get a prescription for new eyeglasses, then it is advisable to make an appointment with an optometrist.
An optometrist is a healthcare professional who performs a primary examination of the eyes and visual acuity. It is easier to get an appointment time with an optometrist than with an ophthalmologist. If the sole purpose of the appointment is to control visual acuity or get a prescription for new glasses, then a visit to an optometrist is enough. The optometrist is competent to assess, whether the patient needs an additional consultation with an ophthalmologist.