An ophthalmologist is a specialist eye doctor who can diagnose and treat most eye-related conditions. Ophthalmologists can perform complex eye surgery and specialist procedures. While visits to optometrists and other eye specialists such as opticians are good practice for your overall eye health, only ophthalmologists can offer expert medical and surgical treatment for conditions such as cataracts, macular degeneration, retinal detachment, complications from diabetes and more.
As early detection of eye disease is so important for ensuring that a broader range of treatment options are available, it is recommended that regular appointments be scheduled with an ophthalmologist… even if you think you don’t need them!
Since eye conditions are often hereditary, regular appointments are particularly important for those with a family history of eye disease. Early detection of eye disease is the best way to improve your chances of protecting and retaining your vision — so making your eye health a priority is essential.
To make things easier, we’ve listed some of the conditions that ophthalmologists and retina specialists will be able to help you with!
Routine Conditions Treated by Ophthalmologists
Patients often associate ophthalmologists with complex eye conditions that require long-term treatment or surgery, but in actual fact, ophthalmologists can also offer treatment for less severe eye conditions. Even if you’re suffering from something as simple as pollen allergy, mention it to your ophthalmologist who will be able to alleviate your symptoms.
From dry eyes to infections such as conjunctivitis, many common eye conditions will only require short-term treatment to clear the problem. However, for those who experience recurrent infections or intermittent discomfort from routine conditions, an ophthalmologist will be able to use their expertise to uncover the root of the problem and offer more long-term advice.
Despite being one of the most common age-related eye conditions that patients present with, not many people know what to look out for when trying to catch the condition early.. As well as cloudy or blurred visions, cataracts can cause colors to look different and make it difficult to see at night. People with cataracts sometimes report difficulties with glare and often resort to repeatedly changing their glasses prescription to rectify issues with their vision.
As the risk of getting cataracts increases with each decade of life starting around age 40, it’s vital that patients present to a qualified ophthalmologist as soon as they notice a change in their eyesight. Even if you think you might know the cause of deterioration in your eyesight, it’s always best to consult an expert.
The good news is that if your ophthalmologist diagnoses you with cataracts, several treatment options are available depending on your condition’s severity. As an ophthalmologist is skilled both medically and surgically, they’ll be able to offer the widest range of support after your diagnosis. Your quality of life is always a priority, so if you are suitable for surgery to remove cataracts, your ophthalmologist will schedule your surgery as soon as possible.
Macular Degeneration (Age-Related Macular Degeneration) & Macular Holes
Many conditions that affect the eye involve the retina. The retina is a thin layer of tissue that lines the back of the eye and contains light-sensitive cells and nerves that enable you to see. Damage or trauma to this area can greatly impact your vision, so regular retina checks are advised — especially as you age.
Age-Related Macular degeneration (AMD) is when the macula (the central part of your retina) becomes damaged. As the name suggests, risk factors include age, as well as high blood pressure, diet and smoking. There are two types of AMD, ‘Dry AMD’ (which is the most common), and Wet AMD. Both types usually cause blurred vision, but they can also lead to complete vision loss in severe cases.
As AMD rarely occurs in anyone under 60 and early detection can slow its progress, most ophthalmologists will naturally look out for the condition during routine checks in older patients. For patients who have already developed the disease, treatment can be provided in the form of eye injections and advice on supplements. Regular check-ups will also provide an opportunity to monitor and optimize your current vision.
Macular holes is another condition that ophthalmologists will look out for in older patients (as well as younger patients displaying symptoms). Macular holes have similar symptoms to macular degeneration but are a direct result of small tears or holes in the central part of your retina
Treatment options for macular holes will depend on how long the holes have been left untreated, but your ophthalmologist will offer further advice after a consultation and eye exam.
Retinal detachment is a condition that occurs when your retina pulls away from its normal position — an often-painless condition, despite how it sounds! Because of this, many people will not recognize when their retina has detached and will only seek medical attention after other symptoms have started to appear.
Retinal detachment requires urgent medical attention, so seek immediate medical attention from an ophthalmologist if you experience a considerable and sudden appearance of:
• Floaters (small dark lines or spots floating across your vision)
• Blurred vision
• Flashes of light in one or both eyes
• A reduction in your field of vision
Treatment includes surgical and non-surgical options, but your ophthalmologist will be able to recommend the best treatment for you after evaluating the severity of your case.
Floaters and Flashes
Floaters are small dark spots that float in and out of your vision — quite a common condition despite not being considered a normal part of your vision. If you’re unsure what eye floaters look like, this video might shed some light!
Floaters can range in size, but when they’re small and only occur intermittently, patients often don’t see a need to have them checked out. While floaters themselves are not usually harmful, underlying conditions that cause them can require urgent care. As soon as you begin to experience floaters, this can be a great excuse to schedule an eye exam and have your eyes thoroughly checked to ensure that there’s nothing more to worry about.
If your ophthalmologist determines that you are a suitable candidate, Pars Plana Vitrectomy (PPV) surgery is a quick and easy eye procedure that removes floaters.
Conditions Relating to Diabetes
Diabetes is a chronic health condition characterized by high blood sugar levels (also referred to as blood glucose). Almost 1.9 million Americans have type 1 diabetes, including about 244,000 children and adolescents.
Diabetes and complications resulting from it can lead to several different eye-related conditions. These include blurred vision, cataracts, glaucoma, and many more conditions that may require urgent care.
A major condition that all good ophthalmologists will look out for in sufferers of diabetes is called ‘Diabetic Retinopathy’, in which high blood sugar levels damage the back of the eye. The earlier that diabetic retinopathy is diagnosed, the more treatment options there will be available to you.
Laser procedures, eye injections and surgery are all commonly used by ophthalmologists to treat diabetic retinopathy — but your specialist will talk you through each option.
Macular Edema is a condition where the retina swells, sometimes caused by a build-up of fluid on the central part of your eye’s retina. It can cause painless waves or blurring to the central line of vision (similar to other macular conditions).
To diagnose the condition, your ophthalmologist will first try to determine what is causing the fluid build-up in your macular and then offer a treatment solution based on this. Injections, laser treatment, eye drops and steroid treatment are the most common ways to treat Macular Edema but your ophthalmologist will always conduct a thorough eye exam and match you with the most effective treatment.
Retinal Vein Occlusion
Retinal Vein Occlusion involves the blockage of veins that carry blood away from the retina. While it can be a serious condition that can lead to permanent vision loss, routine eye exams are often very good at picking up on the condition.
There are two different types of retinal vein occlusion — CRVO and BRVO. CRVO retinal vein occlusion is a blockage in the retina’s main vein, while BRVO vein occlusion is a blockage in smaller veins. A CRVO retinal vein occlusion will cause blurred vision throughout the entire field of vision (both central and peripheral vision), while a BRVO retinal vein occlusion will usually only affect the upper or lower parts of your peripheral vision (though central vision can still be affected).
Treatment for both types of retinal vein occlusion can be offered in the form of intravitreal injections, laser treatment, and regular monitoring to help alleviate the condition’s symptoms, with your ophthalmologist likely wanting to carry out treatment as soon as possible.
A macular pucker is commonly described as a condition that makes your eyesight wavy or distorted. It is usually caused by scar tissue that grows on the retina’s surface. Despite it sounding like a complex condition, your ophthalmologist is highly-skilled in handling treatment for the condition.
A membrane peel can be an extremely effective treatment for this condition, but your ophthalmologist will first need to assess your level of suitability. The treatment usually takes less than one hour, with little or no discomfort due to local numbing around the eye area.
Eye Symptoms Relating to Other Health Issues
Complications from seemingly unrelated health conditions can also affect your eyesight, due to the fact that your eyes are connected to your brain and other systems of the body. Several conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, Lyme disease, autoimmune conditions, and even skin conditions such as rosacea can cause issues with your eyes.
If you have any pre-existing conditions, always let your ophthalmologist know so that they can look out for complications and help alleviate any symptoms you might be experiencing.
Conditions that affect your hormones, such as pregnancy, can also affect your eyes, so it’s always worth scheduling an appointment with an ophthalmologist to avoid unnecessary discomfort.
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