UK heatwave: Expert issues warning on UV damage to eyes
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If you’re lucky enough to be born with perfect sight and even if you have vision impairment, it’s crucial to look after your eyes and watch out for signs of failing eyesight. Not sure if what you’re experiencing is normal or a warning sign? Express.co.uk chatted to Robert Longhurst, consultant optometrist from 25 Harley Street to find out the seven sights YOUR eyesight is getting worse.
Your eyes succumb to the wear and tear of ageing just as all parts of your body do.
For example, it is normal to start to need reading glasses in your early to mid-40s as this is due to a change in the eyes’ ability to focus on near objects (presbyopia).
However, there are a number of other signs that your sight is failing and some of these need urgent attention.
Express.co.uk spoke to consultant optometrist Robert Longhurst to find out the seven signs YOUR eyesight is getting worse.
The expert said: “There are many signs that your sight is failing, but there can be many causes of these.
“It is important that anyone over 40, therefore, has regular sight tests to protect their eyes and vision and anyone with symptoms such as those above should see an optometrist right away.
“It is only through having a thorough examination that the causes of symptoms can be determined and the best advice is then given on what to do.”
Flashing lights and floaters
Eye floaters are the dark specks in your vision that float about when you move your eyes.
They are usually caused by a natural breakdown in the jellylike substance inside the eye called the vitreous humour.
However, if you notice a sudden increase in floaters, especially if they are accompanied by flashes of lights in your peripheral vision, it is important to see an optometrist right away.
Robert said: “Flashing lights and a sudden increase in floaters may be caused by a vitreous detachment, which is where the breakdown of the vitreous causes it to shrink and move away from the photosensitive film at the back of the eye – the retina.
“Although this in itself is common and harmless, the vitreous can tug too hard on the retina as it moves away causing it to tear or detach.
“This can cause blindness and requires urgent treatment, so do not ignore flashing lights and floaters.”
Straight lines appearing wavy
Straight lines appearing wavy is called metamorphopsia and it’s not something to be ignored.
Metamorphopsia happens when the layers of the retina become displaced and this can be a sign of age-related macular degeneration.
Robert said: “Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affects the middle part of your vision and there are two main types – wet and dry.
“Dry is far more common and although there is no treatment for it, it develops very slowly.
“Wet AMD, however, develops quickly and causes new blood vessels to grow and leak underneath the retina.
“This causes very sudden sight loss that, if left untreated, can be permanent.
“Wet AMD needs urgent treatment with eye injections.”
Sudden blind spot in one eye
A sudden blind spot in one eye may be caused by a macular hole, which is a hole that appears in the middle part of your retina called the macular.
Most of the time, the cause of these holes is unknown, but they affect mostly women aged over 60.
Macular holes initially cause blurry and distorted vision that cannot be corrected with glasses, Robert explained.
The consultant optometrist: “Eventually, a blind spot in the central vision develops.
“Sometimes macular holes repair themselves, but often surgery is needed to improve vision and prevent a retinal detachment, which can be caused by a macular hole and can cause blindness.”
Sudden loss of vision
Any sudden loss of vision whether fleeting or constant needs urgent medical investigation.
There are many reasons for a sudden loss of vision, but some are sight-threatening and some can even be life-threatening!
A sudden loss of vision in one eye can be caused by a retinal migraine, which may or may not be accompanied by a headache.”
Robert said: “A migraine without a headache is sometimes called a silent migraine – retinal migraines are thought to occur when a blood vessel in the eye spasms.”
Amaurosis fugax means transient darkening and refers to a temporary loss of vision due to a lack of blood flow to the retina.
This is usually caused when a small blood clot from the neck or heart travels to the back of the eye, Robert said. This type of vision loss is a precursor to a stroke.
Giant Cell Arteritis (GCA) is inflammation of the lining of the arteries in the head and this can also cause a loss of vision.
The consultant optometrist added: “Other symptoms of GCA are fatigue, scalp tenderness, and jaw pain on chewing.
“If left untreated, GCA can cause permanent blindness.
“Other causes of a sudden loss of vision are a detached retina and a vitreous haemorrhage, which is where there is a bleed in one of the cavities inside the eye.
“This can happen in diabetes or through a trauma to the eye among other things.”
Gradual loss of vision
A gradual loss of vision is very common and may just be that new glasses are needed.
A trip to the optician will determine whether or not this is the case and if new glasses do not improve the vision, it could be that cataracts are the cause.
Robert explained: “Cataracts are a natural clouding of the lens inside the eye that normally develops with ageing. They can also be caused by trauma and some medications.
“Cataracts are usually surgically removed and the affected lens replaced.”
A more sinister cause of a gradual loss of vision is glaucoma, which is sometimes called the “silent thief of sight”.
Robert said: “By the time the vision loss is apparent with glaucoma, it is too late to treat.
“It is important, therefore, that anyone over the age of 40 and with a family history of glaucoma has annual sight tests.
“Anyone without a family history should be seen at least once every two years.”
A painful eye
A painful eye should always be investigated, as there are many causes ranging from minor ailments to potentially life-threatening ones.
Normally, a painful eye is due to an injury, an infection or inflammation.
Dry eye is probably the most common cause of eye pain and can also cause sufferers’ vision to fluctuate.
Robert said: “Dry eye drops will usually alleviate the symptoms in this case.
“A foreign body is also a common cause of a painful eye, but these are usually easy to remove.”
Corneal abrasions such as scratches on the cornea can also cause a lot of pain, but normally do not require any treatment.
Corneal infections, on the other hand, can sometimes be sight-threatening if left untreated.
Rarely, eye pain can result from a tumour, Robert warned.
Like a painful eye, a red eye can be a sign of a number of different conditions.
Conjunctivitis is very common and refers to an infection of the transparent membrane that lines your eyelid and eyeball.
Conjunctivitis is usually easy to treat and does not have any lasting effect on vision.
Scleritis, however, is a rare but potentially severe sight-threatening inflammatory disease of the sclera – the white outer layer of the eyeball, Robert pointed out.
The consultant optometrist said: “Another cause of a red eye is uveitis, which is inflammation of the middle layer of the eye.
“Steroids are usually prescribed and most cases are resolved, but sometimes uveitis can lead to cataracts and glaucoma.
“Some types of glaucoma can also cause a red eye.
“As with eye pain, anyone with a red eye should see an optometrist.”
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