Dubai: Your eyes are your window to the world, but like every organ they degenerate with age. Humid and hot desert conditions also pose a challenge to visual health. Ailments range from simple conditions like, astigmatism, presbyopia to lifestyle induced conditions such as macular degeneration and retinopathy. There is no magic pill to stop this process, but Dubai-based ophthalmologist Dr Saleem Moopen from Aster Medical Centre advises regular-checkups and a healthy lifestyle to protect your eyes.
“Adults over 40 may be particularly at risk for the development of eye and vision problems if any of the following conditions exist: Chronic, systemic conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure; a family history of glaucoma or macular degeneration and health conditions like high cholesterol, thyroid conditions, chronic inflammatory diseases like arthritis for which you take medications, all of which can be delayed or prevented if you consult your ophthalmologist regularly once you hit middle age,” Dr Moopen says.
He lists the top seven eye ailments in the region and basic precautions that can avert damage.
This is one of the most common complaints characterised by burning, scratchy and watering eyes. In most cases, the diagnosis is dry eye and allergy. Although not vision threatening, dry eyes cause a high level of discomfort to the patient affecting his daily life. Dry eyes are caused by lack of adequate tears.
The etiology is multi-factorial, ranging from reduced secretion of tears and hormonal changes as seen in women above 40 to excessive use of computer and overuse of some medications. Studies have proved that excessive use of computer/tab/ mobile screens reduce the blinking rate of human eye. A normal blinking rate is absolutely necessary to maintain proper functioning of tear film.
Use eye drops, preferably preservative free, but avoid over-the-counter decongestant drops because they reduce redness, but not dry eye.
Reduce the duration of your contact lens use.
Women should protect eyes when they blow dry their hair for long periods.
Eat fish and green leafy vegetables.
Wear good quality wraparound glasses to protect your eyes from wind, sun and dust.
Try to reduce looking at computer screen for long periods. Take a break every hour. Your smart phone might look better with the brightness set to maximum but for the eyes it is better to reduce it to a minimum possible. Computer monitors should be set to proper resolution so that letters are readable without strain.
‘I need to hold the paper far to see clearly’… this is a common complaint from patients suffering from this condition.. Everyone after 40 soon or later will need reading glasses. Human eye lens slowly lose the capacity to focus on near objects.
Prevention: No alternative to wearing reading glasses, although research and trials are under way to surgically correct this.
Since the incidence of diabetes is high in UAE rapid degeneration of the eyes is a common condition if diabetes is unchecked. Diabetes causes deterioration of the retinal blood vessels resulting in leaking blood vessels at the back the eye (diabetic retinopathy). If untreated, this condition may lead to blurry vision, retinal hemorrhage and blindness. Not all people with diabetes develop retinopathy, but the likelihood increases with bad control of diabetes and longer duration of diabetes.
It is very important to remember that during the initial stages, patients don’t experience any symptoms.
Prevention: Keep diabetes under control in consultation with your endocrinologist
Go for mandatory ophthalmic check-ups every six months if you are diabetic. Identifying retinopathy at this stage is important greatly helps in the success of the treatment. There for it is mandatory for every diabetic patient to rule out retinopathy and glaucoma by undergoing these checks. Make sure the physician treating the patient reminds you to undergo the regular retinal checkup.
Floaters and flashes
“Doctor I am seeing black spots moving in front of my eye” is a common complaint you hear in the clinic. In most cases, these are actually shadowy images of particles floating in the fluid that fills the inside of the eye. Spots and floaters are usually harmless and typically do not risk vision. They are a natural part of the eye’s aging process. But if you suddenly see more floaters than normal, and they are accompanied by bright, flashing lights, they may be a warning sign of impending retinal detachment.
Prevention: Seek medical treatment immediately to prevent serious loss of vision.
Although the exact cause of cataracts is not well understood, they often develop as a person ages. The tendency to form cataracts may run in families. They also may occur after an eye injury or with other diseases. Most cataracts are due to ageing. Other causes include: Diabetes; Eye injury or trauma; Overexposure of eyes to the sun’s damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays; Smoking
Prevention: It is difficult to prevent cataracts as the condition develops as a side effect of lifestyle diseases
A cataract can only be removed by surgery. Cataract surgery is one of the most common operations performed, usually with excellent results if the eye is otherwise healthy.
Glaucoma occurs when the optic nerve is damaged and no longer transits all visual images to the brain.
The best way to prevent loss of sight from glaucoma is to have medical eye examinations every year if you are over 40 years of age, and more frequently if you have diabetes, or have a family history of glaucoma. Some people don’t seek periodic medical eye examinations because they think their eyesight is perfect normal. This is an incorrect assumption because many eye diseases do not cause symptoms until the disease has done damage. Glaucoma is one such condition without any symptoms until it is very advanced to a stage when treatment is not very successful. For successful treatment Glaucoma has to be detected early.
Prevention: Periodic eye examinations.
Age related macular degeneration or ARMD
This is another eye condition seen in old age. If your central vision appears blurry or straight lines appears distorted... It could be a warning sign.
Prevention: While prevention may be difficult but early intervention can help slow down the damage. Again regular checkup can help to identify it at an earlier stage. ARMD risk increase with age, risk of AMD also includes those who have high blood pressure (hypertension); Smoking; obesity; or a family history of AMD
Prevention: Periodic eye examinations.