Untreated eye diseases can cause permanent vision loss or even blindness. The only way to detect many forms of eye disease is with a comprehensive eye exam. Early detection and treatment is critical and can slow or even prevent vision loss.

Regular eye exams allow your optometrist to detect and track subtle changes in your vision and eye health that may be indicators of eye diseases.

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Common Eye Diseases

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

According to the Canadian Association of Optometrists, AMD is the leading cause of blindness in adults over the age of 55 in North America. AMD affects the macula, which is the part of our retina responsible for colour vision and detailed sight. As this disease progresses, your central vision is slowly lost.

Most floaters are harmless and are simply small collagen fibres floating around in the vitreous (the clear, gel-like fluid that fills your eyeball). As we age, the vitreous becomes less viscous, which allows the floaters to move around more easily, making them more noticeable.

If you experience sudden flashes of light, accompanied by a shower of floaters, you may be experiencing a retinal tear or retinal detachment. A retinal detachment is a serious condition that can cause permanent vision loss if not treated quickly.

Cataracts occur when the proteins in our natural lenses become opaque over time. This opacity clouds our vision and can lead to vision deterioration and a dimming of colours if not treated. Cataract symptoms include blurry or hazy vision and increased sensitivity to glare.

While cataracts are a normal part of the ageing process, factors such as diabetes, UV exposure, excessive alcohol consumption, and smoking increase your chances of developing cataracts at a younger age.

In their early stages, cataracts may only be mildly disruptive. As such, your optometrist may be able to suggest workarounds such as using a magnifying aid and more light while doing near activities or wearing glasses treated with an anti-glare coating. However, if your cataracts begin to significantly impact your vision, you may require cataract surgery. Cataract surgery involves removing your cloudy natural lens and replacing it with a new, permanently clear artificial lens.

Conjunctivitis, also known as “pink eye”, occurs when the conjunctiva (the thin, transparent film that covers the white of your eye) becomes irritated and inflamed. This causes the blood vessels in your eyes to dilate, giving pink eye its name.

There are three main forms of conjunctivitis:

  • Allergic conjunctivitis is triggered by allergens such as pollen or pet dander. It isn’t contagious and can be controlled using antihistamines.
  • Bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by a bacterial infection and requires antibiotic treatment. It’s highly contagious, so you should avoid work or school until it has cleared up.
  • Viral conjunctivitis is caused by a virus, and like the common cold, should clear up on its own in a few days. However, it’s still highly contagious, so you should stay home from work or school until your eyes are back to normal.

If you suspect that you have conjunctivitis you should make an appointment with your optometrist right away so they can determine the cause and, if necessary, provide treatment.

Glaucoma occurs when the optic nerve becomes damaged, generally as a result of high intraocular pressure. The optic nerve is responsible for transmitting information from our eyes to our brain.

Glaucoma doesn’t typically exhibit symptoms early on, so many people don’t realize they have glaucoma until they have experienced permanent peripheral vision loss. Glaucoma can be treated, but early detection is critical, which is why all comprehensive eye exams performed at Central Optometry include glaucoma testing. We test for glaucoma using non-contact tonometry and Goldmann applanation tonometry.