Common Eye Diseases
Spots, Flashes, & Floaters
Most floaters and spots are perfectly normal and are caused by tiny pieces of protein and other tissue floating around in the vitreous (clear, gel-like fluid) that fills the inside of our eyes. As we age, the vitreous becomes less viscous, allowing the floaters to move around more easily and making them more noticeable.
However, if you experience bright flashes of lights followed by a shower of floaters, you may be experiencing a retinal tear or retinal detachment. Retinal detachment is a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention to prevent permanent vision loss.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
According to the Canadian Association of Optometrists, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in North America in adults over 55. AMD occurs in the macula, a small portion of our retina responsible for central sight and colour vision. As AMD progresses, your central vision is slowly lost.
There are two forms of AMD:
- Dry AMD is the most common form and is typically milder than its wet counterpart. Dry AMD occurs when drusen (lipid deposits) accumulate under the macula. This causes the macula’s light-sensitive cells to become damaged, causing permanent vision loss or even blindness. Though there is currently no cure for dry AMD, the Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2) conducted by the National Eye Institute suggests that dry AMD’s progression can be slowed by consuming nutritional supplements and antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein, zeaxanthin, and zinc.
- Wet AMD is less common and is more sudden and debilitating than dry AMD. With wet AMD, new blood vessels grow beneath the macula and leak blood and fluid. This leakage can permanently damage the light-sensitive retinal cells, causing them to die and creating blind spots in the central vision.
Cataracts are a normal part of the ageing process. They occur when the proteins in our natural lenses become opaque over time, causing cloudy vision. Symptoms of cataracts include:
- Blurry or hazy vision
- Reduced colour vision
- Increased sensitivity to glare, particularly during nighttime driving
Though most of us will develop cataracts at some point during our lives, factors such as diabetes, UV exposure, smoking, and consuming alcohol can increase your chances of developing cataracts at a younger age.
Please check out our cataracts page for more information on the condition and what can be done to manage it.
Conjunctivitis, commonly known as “pink eye,” occurs when the conjunctiva (the thin, transparent film covering the white of our eye) becomes inflamed. When this happens, the blood vessels in our eyes dilate, becoming red and bloodshot, giving pink eye its name.
There are 3 main types of conjunctivitis:
- Bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by a bacterial infection and requires treatment. One of the main symptoms of bacterial conjunctivitis is a significant amount of yellow or green discharge. This condition usually affects both eyes and is highly contagious. Even once you have started treatment, you need to stay home from work or school until your bacterial conjunctivitis has fully cleared up.
- Viral conjunctivitis is contracted from a virus and, like the common cold, does not typically require treatment. This form of conjunctivitis should clear up on its own in a few days, but it is contagious, so you should stay home from work or school until it is gone. Symptoms of viral conjunctivitis include watery eyes and discharge. Either one or both eyes can be affected.
Allergic conjunctivitis is caused by allergens such as dust, pollen, and animal dander. Symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis include itchy, watery eyes and a small amount of stringy white discharge. Sufferers may also experience a runny or stuffy nose. Both eyes are affected by allergic conjunctivitis, and this condition is not contagious. Depending on the triggering allergen, this form of conjunctivitis may be seasonal (pollen) or year-round (pet dander or dust).
According to the Canadian Association of Optometrists, glaucoma is one of Canada’s leading causes of blindness. This eye disease occurs when the optic nerve becomes increasingly damaged as a result of high pressure inside the eye.
Our optic nerve is responsible for transmitting visual information from our eyes to our brain. Though glaucoma is typically caused by high intraocular pressure, in some cases, it can occur even when the intraocular pressure is within the normal range.
Glaucoma is manageable, but early detection is crucial. All comprehensive eye exams performed at Okotoks Eyecare include glaucoma testing. To help us detect glaucoma as early as possible, our optometric team uses a variety of tests, including non-contact tonometry (the air puff test) and applanation tonometry, using our iCare Tonometer.
For more information on glaucoma, be sure to visit our Glaucoma page.