Nearsightedness, or myopia, as it is medically termed, is a very common eye condition in which close objects can be seen clearly, but objects farther away appear blurred. Myopia is the opposite of farsightedness or hyperopia.
Nearsightedness occurs if the eyeball is too long or the cornea, the clear front cover of the eye, has too much curvature. As a result, the light entering the eye is not focused correctly and distant objects appear blurred.
This condition usually begins to appear during childhood as a result of hereditary factors. However, adult onset of nearsightedness may occur because of health-related issues such as cataracts or diabetes. Young people who spend a lot of time working at a computer, reading, or doing other intense close visual work are more likely to develop nearsightedness.
Instead of wearing glasses or contact lenses, nearsightedness can be permanently treated. Mitchell Eye Centre offers corrective surgery for nearsightedness using Advanced PRK or Refractive Lens Exchange.
These simple, safe procedures can free you of glasses and the troubles of wearing contact lenses.
Farsightedness, or hyperopia, is a very common eye condition in which distant objects can be seen clearly, but close objects do not come into proper focus. Additional symptoms of farsightedness include fatigue and/or headaches after working with objects nearby, difficulty in maintaining a clear focus on near objects, and aching or burning eyes. Hyperopia is the opposite of nearsightedness or myopia.
This eye condition occurs if the eyeball is too short or the cornea has too little curvature. As a result, the light entering the eye is not focused correctly making it difficult to correctly focus on objects close by.
Usually inherited, farsightedness tends to appear during our early life before adulthood, but it is not uncommon for many to not experience symptoms until later in life.
Mitchell Eye Centre can provide you with safe and affordable eye surgery to correct the vision impairments of farsightedness. To treat farsightedness, we offer Advanced PRK and Refractive Lens Exchange to improve your vision and prevent you from needing to wear glasses or contact lenses.
With astigmatism, your vision is out of focus at all distances. Objects both near and far appear blurry. As one of the most common vision conditions, astigmatism is often accompanied by symptoms of general eye discomfort and headaches.
Astigmatism occurs due to an irregular shape of the cornea or the lens inside eyes that are not completely round. The cornea and lens are primarily responsible for properly focusing light that enters the eyes, allowing you to see things clearly.
Astigmatism may appear for those who have recently had an eye injury but usually is present naturally.
Astigmatism can be easily treated through both Advanced PRK and Refractive Lens Exchange. We recommend scheduling an appointment with one of our doctors in order to identify which eye surgery is best suited to improving your vision.
As a natural part of the aging process, presbyopia affects everyone eventually. Over time, the lens of the eye loses its ability to focus, making it difficult to see objects up close. Headaches, fatigue, and the general feeling that your eye is being strained often accompany presbyopia.
Typically, this condition is first noticed between the ages of 40 to 50 years old. It begins by needing to hold reading materials further away in order to focus properly. It is a natural result of aging and is not a disease.
Thankfully, refractive lens exchange can correct this condition. Presbyopia can be corrected with Enhanced Technology Lenses. Please consult one of our expert physicians to determine which procedure best suits your needs and lifestyle.
Blepharitis, sometimes confused with “dry eye” or “itchy eye”, is a common eye condition that causes eyelids to be reddened, itchy, and somewhat swollen. Gradually, skin at the base of the eyelashes becomes flakey.
Associated descriptions of blepharitis that patients often describe are the feeling that something is in the eye, burning sensations, sensitivity to light, red and swollen eyes or eyelids, blurry vision, crusting of the eyelashes, loss of eyelashes, and, of course, dry eyes. As patches of flakey skin become coarser, the surface of the eye becomes irritated and forms crusts, which may cause the lids to stick together when waking up in the morning.
Blepharitis is a skin condition of the eyelids and is associated with infection, allergies, and skin conditions. If left untreated, blepharitis can lead to discomfort or even damage to your eyesight.
If you are suffering from chronic dry or itchy eyes and are diagnosed with having blepharitis, our eye doctors can prescribe you with Restasis opthalmic emulsion. This prescription helps to increase the eyes’ natural ability to produce tears and keep them moist while also reducing inflammation.
Often referred to as “crossed eyes” or “wandering eyes”, strabismus is a misalignment of the eyes horizontally (inwards or outwards), vertically (upwards or downwards), or a combination of both.
Strabismus usually presents during early childhood, but may also occur later from brain injuries, eye injuries, thyroid disorders, diabetes, and other serious health conditions during adulthood.
Those with strabismus may experience double vision, loss of depth perception, and uncoordinated eye movements.
The secondary effects of these symptoms also include dizziness and headaches. Strabismus can also cause significant psychological effects secondary to teasing during childhood and societal judgment in adult life.
Strabismus surgery involves the manipulation of the muscles surrounding one or both of the eyeballs. The surgery is performed outside of the eye itself only and at no point is the eye ever opened. Surgery is performed under local or general anesthesia and is usually completed within 20-40 minutes. There is swelling present and mild soreness afterwards but recovery is rapid as the eyeball itself is not entered and the surface layer of the eye heals much quicker than skin.
Successful surgery can reverse debilitating double vision and can also bring about drastic improvements in one’s self esteem and self-image. In children, surgery also helps with stereovision and vision development.
Please note that strabismus is often associated with, but is not the same as amblyopia or “lazy eye”.
Keratitis is an inflammation of the eye’s cornea — the clear, dome-shaped tissue on the front of the eye that covers the pupil and iris. Symptoms include redness, difficulty opening your eyes due to pain, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, increased production of tears or other discharges, and the feeling that something is stuck in your eye (i.e. pain).
There are two main types of keratitis: infectious and noninfectious. While infectious bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites can cause keratitis, noninfectious keratitis can be caused by eye injuries, prolonged wearing of contact lenses, or exposure to irritants (chemicals or UV light, for example).
Some groups are at increased risk of contracting keratitis. Those with reduced immunity, individuals living in warm climates, overwearing of contact lenses, and using corticosteroid eye drops all increase the risk of keratitis.
If you notice any of the above signs or symptoms, make an appointment to see a doctor immediately. Delays in diagnosis and treatment of keratitis can lead to significant problems with your vision, including even blindness. Depending on which type of keratitis you are diagnosed with and its severity, treatment could include antibiotics, steroids, and antiviral medication.
Like most common eye disorders, early diagnosis is the best way to avoid loss of vision.
Uveitis is an inflammation of the eye’s uvea. The uvea, or uveal tract, is the middle layer of the eye that consists of the iris, choroid, and ciliary muscle and controls many of the eye’s functions, such as adjusting to different levels of light or the varying distances of objects. While Infections, injury, and autoimmune disorders may be associated with the development of uveitis, the exact cause of this condition is often unknown.
As uveitis can lead to permanent vision loss, early diagnosis and treatment is important to preventing significant complications.
The symptoms that characterize uveitis are pain, redness, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, dark floating “spots” in your field of vision, and, of course, decreased vision. Unfortunately, as many of these symptoms are shared with other commonly found eye conditions, it is vital to seek proper diagnosis from an ophthalmologist.
Treatment of uveitis may include a prescription of anti-inflammatory medication, such as a corticosteroid. This medication may be given as eye drops, pills or an injection into the eye. For people with difficult-to-treat uveitis, a device that’s implanted in the eye may be an option. This device slowly releases corticosteroid medication into the eye for about 2 1/2 years. If the uveitis is caused by an infection then antibiotics, antiviral medications or other medicines may be given with or without corticosteroids to bring the inflammation under control.
When identified early enough, a prescription for medication is usually enough, but in more severe cases surgery such as a vitrectomy may be needed.
Often referred as “droopy” or “saggy” eyelids, dermatochalasis is a natural part of the aging process in which excess skin on the lower or upper eyelids begin to stretch, causing you to have baggy-looking eyes.
In most cases, dermatochalasis is not threatening to the vision or the health of your eyes but simply tends to leave you looking older and worn out. For some though, the upper eyelid may be partially obscuring your field of vision. In either case a quick outpatient procedure can remedy the condition. Our skilled eye surgeons can help you to minimize the appearance of baggy eyelids.
The excess skin on the lower or upper eyelid is reduced with a minor cosmetic procedure, blepharoplasty. Once complete the excess or “droopy” skin in reduced, providing you with a more youthful appearance. Following the procedure, patients can expect a full recovery within three weeks.
Commonly referred to as “pink eye”, conjunctivitis is a common eye disease that is experienced by both adults and children. It may affect one eye or both and is caused by viruses, bacteria, chemical irritants, and allergies.
Pink eye is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin clear tissue that lies over the white part of the eye and lines the inside of the eyelid. The most common symptoms of conjunctivitis are an itchy or burning sensation, an increase in the amount of tears, redness in the whites of the eye or inner eyelid, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, and a thick yellow, green, or white discharge that crusts over the eyelashes, especially after sleep.
While pink eye is usually only a minor irritant, it can develop into a more serious condition if left untreated. When being treated at the earliest stages, our doctors will likely prescribe specially medicated eye drops. However, if this disease has already been left untreated for too long, we may recommend a more comprehensive solution.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with pink eye, please schedule an eye exam so that we can provide you with the fastest and most convenient healthcare solution.
Amblyopia is vision impairment secondary to neurological under-development at the level of the brain. It occurs under the age of six when a weaker eye becomes ignored by the brain. Treatment of amblyopia is predominantly treated with patching or eye drops which cause blurring in the stronger eye, which forces the brain to recognize the weaker eye. Strabismus surgery can also be adjunctive treatment to help the brain recognize visual input from the weaker eye. Treatment of amblyopia must be performed under the age of 6-7 years old or else vision loss will be permanent. This emphasizes the need for amblyopia to be recognized early in children. Often times this needs to be determined by professionals as both eyes can still appear straight even though one eye is losing vision due to being out of focus.
Dry eye disease affects more than 100 million people worldwide. Of these, 65% suffer from what is known as Evaporative Dry Eye.
Evaporative Dry Eye stems from blocked meibomian glands. When there’s a blockage, this prevents the gland from secreting the natural, healthy oily lipids that the eye needs to form a protective layer so that the eye’s tear film does not evaporate.
When there’s a deficiency in these oily lipids, the irritation of dry eyes begins as the moisture layer evaporates. With increased exposure to wind, dust, pollen, and other irritants, the eye becomes more sensitive.
Common symptoms of Evaporative Dry Eye include dryness, grittiness, soreness, irritation, burning, and eye fatigue. These symptoms can hinder people’s daily activities such as reading, using the computer, wearing contact lenses, and being outdoors on windy days. Many dry eye patients complain those symptoms worsen throughout the day.
Mitchell Eye Centre can alleviate the symptoms of Evaporative Dry Eye by unblocking the glands and allowing them to resume the secretion of oily lipids needed for a healthy tear film.
Blepharitis, sometimes confused with “dry eye” or “itchy eye”, is a common eye condition that causes eyelids to be reddened, itchy, and somewhat swollen. Gradually, skin at the base of the eyelashes becomes flaky.
Symptoms of blepharitis include a feeling that something is in the eye, burning sensations, sensitivity to light, red and swollen eyes or eyelids, blurry vision, crusting of the eyelashes, loss of eyelashes, and, of course, dry eyes. As patches of flakey skin become coarser, the surface of the lid becomes irritated and forms crusts, which may cause the lids to stick together when waking up in the morning.
Blepharitis is a skin condition of the eyelids and is associated with infection, allergies, and other skin conditions. If left untreated, blepharitis can lead to discomfort or even damage to your eyesight.
The lens in your eye operates similar to the lens of a camera. It focuses light onto the retina for clear vision, and also adjusts the eye’s focus, allowing you to see clearly both up close and far away. Over time, the lens in the eye grows and changes. A cataract is a clouding of the lens which prevents it from doing its job properly.
Cataracts become more common as you age and are the leading causes of vision loss for adults over the age of 40. Initially, most fail to notice the symptoms of cataracts which emerge gradually over time. However, as cataracts continue to develop, the effect on your eyesight becomes more noticeable and then pronounced.
The most common symptom associated with cataracts is blurry or cloudy vision. Some describe living with cataracts as like having to look through a fogged window or frosted glass. Cataracts also lead to increased sensitivity to light, reduced vision at night, seeing faint halos around light sources, and the gradual fading of colours. Over time, these symptoms become worse as the cataracts grow, and in turn, dramatically reduce your ability to see clearly. Luckily, cataracts can be treated effectively and there are many options available.
At Mitchell Eye Centre, our surgeons can quickly have you seeing clearly again and also reduce your dependence on glasses.
To learn more about the three different types of cataracts most commonly diagnosed, read more about subcapsular cataracts, nuclear cataracts, and cortical cataracts below. If you think that you may be developing cataracts or if you are already considering treatment, book an appointment with us to immediately begin making your vision clear.
Nuclear cataracts are the most common type of cataract. They are age-related and most frequently occur in patients over the age of 40.
Found in the center of the eye’s lens, nuclear cataracts interfere with your ability to see objects at a distance as well as limiting the ability to distinguish between colours and shades. Over time, the cataract will turn yellow or brown and cloud vision.
For some patients, while the cataract is progressing, near-vision, for activities such as reading or using a computer, may actually improve. As the lens becomes more dense and cloudy, it changes the eye’s ability to focus, making closer objects appear clearer. Yet, this improvement is only short lived. Ultimately, nuclear cataracts lead to an overall reduction in your ability to see clearly.
Subcapsular cataracts affect the back of the lens and usually begins as a small, cloudy area blocking light from passing through to the retina. Subcapsular cataracts tend to progress more quickly than other types, leading to vision loss in a shorter period of time. At early to mid-stages, subcapsular cataracts interfere with your ability to read and may cause glares or halos to appear around light sources at night. This results in diminished night vision and can negatively affect your ability to drive in dark conditions.
Cortical cataracts are most commonly developed by those with diabetes. Cortical cataracts begin in the outer rim of the eye’s lens as slowly growing “spokes” towards the centre of the lens. These spokes block or distort the light passing through. This causes glares to form around lights and a loss of contrast between colours and shades. Both near and distance vision are slowly reduced. If left untreated, cortical cataracts can result in vision loss.
A chalazion is a red raised mass that can gradually or suddenly appear in the upper or lower eyelid. It is caused by a blockage of the oil produced by the eyelids oil glands. As this oil builds up, it causes an inflammation that in turn causes symptoms including swelling, redness, mild pain, and leaves the area feeling tender.
Chalazions more commonly affect adults, frequently those between the ages of 30 to 50 years old. People are more likely to develop a chalazion if they suffer from chronic blepharitis, adult acne (acne rosacea), or meibomian gland dysfunction.
While a chalazion sometimes will naturally dissipate after 3 weeks to 1 month, it can also persist causing continuous discomfort or even blur vision as the lump begins to press against the eyeball.
Chalazion drainage is a simple, painless procedure, which can be completed in 15 minutes and is performed on an outpatient basis.
Pterygium is a pink, fleshy growth of tissue on the front of the eye, usually forming on the side of the eye closest to the nose. Pterygium is a relatively common eye condition and most often affects those who spend a lot of time outdoors, especially on beaches or swimming. Pterygiums are caused by prolonged exposure to sunlight or UV rays, dry eyes, and regular outdoor eye irritants such as dust or sand. While this growth tends to appear on only one eye, in some cases it may develop on both.
In addition to its physical appearance, the presence of a pterygium can cause blurred vision, itchiness, a burning sensation, and the perpetual feeling that something is stuck in your eye.
If the pterygium is relatively small or only causing mild discomfort, a prescription of medication and eye drops may be sufficient. If the growth has been left untreated for a long period of time or has grown to a size which is causing difficulty seeing, the pterygium can be removed surgically by what is known as a pterygium removal procedure.
Please note, that unless examined by an eye care professional, pterygiums can sometimes be mistaken as a pinguecula.
A pinguecula is a small, yellowish growth that can develop on either side of the cornea, but often forms on the side of the eye closest to the nose. While the exact cause of a pinguecula is yet unknown, it appears that long-term exposure to sunlight or UV rays may be a determining factor.
The symptoms of pinguecula are relatively mild and the growth itself is benign. If left untreated, the growth can increase in size and turn into a pterygium. Beyond physical appearance, the pinguecula causes minor irritation, redness in the eye, and may become swollen or inflamed. The presence of a pinguecula may feel as though something is in your eye but this is more of a nuisance than a health risk.
The growth can easily be removed. The pinguecula removal procedure is performed as an outpatient basis and takes less than 15 minutes to complete. Please note, unless examined by an eye care professional, pinguecula may be mistaken as a pterygium as they share similar symptoms.
We commonly have patients visit us to examine lesions or cysts on the eyelid or tissue immediately surrounding the eye. Whereas a lesion is solid and an abnormal growth of tissue, a cyst is filled with fluid. These growths may be benign and harmless but may also be indicative of other health issues. Similarly, the cause of these growths varies from patient to patient.
Beyond the physical appearance of lesions or cysts, symptoms depend, in part, on the size and location of the growth. In addition to causing irritation, the growth may obstruct the eyelid’s ability to protect the eye and cause damage to your vision by repeatedly damaging the surface of the eye.
After examining the lesions or cyst, our doctors can surgically remove the growth. The procedure for lid lesion or cyst removal is performed under a local anesthetic and requires only 5 to 10 minutes to complete.
If the lesion appears to be malignant, our doctors may first perform a biopsy to determine if the growth is malignant or benign or even a sign of something more serious.
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases which result in damage to the optic nerve and vision loss. Risk factors for glaucoma include increased pressure in the eye, a family history of the condition, migraines, high blood pressure, and obesity. If treated early it is possible to slow or stop the progression of disease with medication, laser treatment, or surgery.
The most common type of glaucoma is open-angle glaucoma. For those with this type of glaucoma, the fluid that would normally flow out of the eye cannot get through the drainage canals which are not working well. This causes a gradual rise in intraocular of pressure in the eye, slowly damaging the optic nerve fibres and reducing your field of vision.
Referred to as acute angle-closure glaucoma, closed-angle glaucoma, or narrow-angle glaucoma, it is a serious type of glaucoma. The fluid at the front of the eye cannot leave the eye because the drainage canals are blocked by part of the iris. This results in a sudden increase in intraocular pressure and produces rapid damage to the optic nerve with rapid loss of vision.
Narrow-angle glaucoma is considered to be a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment to prevent blindness.
Childhood glaucoma and congenital glaucoma are rare forms of glaucoma that develop in infancy, early childhood, or adolescence. In the case of congenital glaucoma, children are born with a defect in the angle of their eye, which slows the normal drainage of fluid.
For any infant or child with glaucoma, prompt medical treatment is important in preventing blindness.
Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is a deterioration of the macula. AMD affects your central vision and causes difficulty with reading, writing, driving, watching television, and recognizing people’s faces. The central vision can appear distorted or blurry, or a central blind spot can develop. AMD is not painful and the loss of vision is gradual.
The symptoms of AMD may vary between patients, but usually the first sign is the inability to see fine details. You may have increasing difficulty reading small print, notice a small “smudge” or blurred area in your central field of vision. Straight lines may appear distorted or wavy. While the changes in vision caused by AMD are frequently present in both eyes, some people may only notice these changes in one eye.
As the name implies, AMD is associated with the aging of the eye, particularly for those over the age of 65. Risk factors include genetics or family history, smoking, poor diet, and female gender, although people can still develop this condition without any of these risk factors
The most important distinction in AMD prognosis and treatment is whether it is “dry” or “wet”.
The majority of patients when first diagnosed with AMD have the dry form. During these stages, the macula degenerates slowly, causing the symptoms described above. Patients with dry macular degeneration are treated with high dose multivitamins (eg. Ocuvite, Preservision, or Vitalux.) It is important to take these daily and to address risk factors like smoking. Self-monitoring is also important using an Amsler Grid.
Wet AMD is the more advanced – and serious – form of AMD. Abnormal blood vessels begin to form underneath the macula and cause swelling and bleeding in the macula, rapidly accelerating the damage to the vision. These abnormal blood vessels are known as CNVM, or a choroidal neovascular membrane.
Historically wet AMD led to severe central vision loss. Before 2005 the standard therapy was laser treatment, which destroyed the abnormal blood vessels but also caused significant collateral damage to the macula and significant vision loss. Since the 2005, there have been major advances in the treatment of wet AMD and the vast majority of patients are now treated with injections of medication into the eye.
These medications (Avastin, Lucentis or Eylea) shrink the abnormal vessels and reverse the macular swelling, leading to some vision recovery and ultimately stabilization of the vision in the majority of patients. Injections are required once a month initially but are eventually tailored to each patient’s specific needs.
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of type 1 or 2 diabetes that damages the blood vessels within the retina, causing them to leak and bleed. Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy can include floaters, blurred vision, dark or empty areas in the visual field, or reduced colour perception. However, it is important to know that diabetic retinopathy can be severely advanced and threatening imminent blindness with minimal or no symptoms.
Adults who have been newly diagnosed with diabetes should schedule an eye examination within a couple of months of receiving their diagnosis. Newly diagnosed teenagers or children should discuss with their family doctor or endocrinologist the appropriate timing of their first diabetic eye examination. Once screening examinations begin they should be continued at least yearly, and will be scheduled more often if diabetic eye disease is detected. Patients with a longer history of diabetes and poorly controlled blood sugars or blood pressure are more likely to develop diabetic retinopathy and will need more frequent monitoring exams.
If diabetes is well controlled and eye examinations are scheduled appropriately, patients can enjoy a lifetime of good vision. However, diabetic eye disease remains one of the leading causes of blindness in Canada due to difficulty controlling sugars, blood pressures, and missed screening opportunities.
There are a number of treatment options available for diabetic retinopathy, depending on its severity. Treatment options include: Intravitreal anti-VEGF injections or steroids into the eye to reduce swelling, laser treatments to reduce retinal swelling or redirect nutrients from the peripheral retina to the macula. In severe cases where there is severe bleeding inside the eye or scarring of the retina has occurred vitrectomy and membrane peeling surgery may be needed. Our retina surgeons will determine the best treatment options for you in the event you have developed diabetic retinopathy.
An epiretinal membrane (ERM) is a thin layer of scar tissue that develops on the retina. Also referred to as cellophane maculopathy or macular pucker, ERMs may blur or distort your central vision as the membrane begins to wrinkle and shrink. Objects may appear to be bent or wavy, similar to viewing them through a glass bottle. Other symptoms of epiretinal membranes can be increased difficulty reading small print, seeing fine detail, or noticing blind spots in your vision.
Most epiretinal membranes develop as a consequence of age, but they can also develop in patients with uveitis, after eye trauma, or after other eye surgeries.
If your retinal specialist determines that the epiretinal membrane is causing blurred vision or is threatening the health of the macula, he can remove the membrane with surgery (vitrectomy with membrane peeling). Occasionally there is a role for anti-inflammatory eye drops in the treatment of epiretinal membranes, but for the most part the only way to address the scar tissue is with surgery.
A retinal detachment is a very serious eye condition that happens when the retina separates from the wall of the eye. Since the retina cannot function properly under these conditions, anyone suffering from retina detachment is at risk of permanently losing their vision if the detached retina is not promptly repaired.
Most retinal detachments are caused by tears or holes in the retina that develop when the vitreous gel contracts and pulls on the retina. You are more susceptible to retinal detachment is you are severely nearsighted in one or both eyes, have had an eye injury or surgery, or have a family history of retinal detachment.
Depending on the type and configuration of the retinal detachment, it will need to be repaired using either a vitrectomy, scleral buckling surgery, pneumatic retinopexy or even a combination of these techniques. Our retinal specialist will determine the best treatment option for your eye and discuss these options with you.
Symptoms that are suggestive of retinal detachment include flashes of light, floaters (which look like small threads or motes of dust in your vision), or a veil within your peripheral field of vision. If these symptoms develop, you should be assessed within 24 hours.
Floaters are shapes that may appear as dots, clouds, threads, or cobwebs that drift across your field of vision. Tiny clusters of cells or protein develop in the vitreous gel that fills the middle of the eye. These cast shadows on the retina, which the brain perceives as floaters.
Floaters move as the eyes move and may appear to vanish when trying to look at them directly. Floaters are usually most noticeable when looking at something of a uniformly colour or brightness, for example, the sky or a white background. Floaters occur more frequently as your eyes age. Over time, the vitreous shrinks and can completely separate from the retina, a condition known as posterior vitreous detachment or separation (PVD or PVS). Patients with a PVD experience a significant increase in floaters. Fortunately, over time the floaters tend to become less noticeable. This is either because they float downwards and out of the field of view, or because the brain learns to disregard the floaters.
As mentioned, floaters are usually caused by benign clusters of cells or protein but can also be caused by more serious conditions in which blood or pigment is floating in the vitreous. Therefore, while frequently benign, floaters can also be a sign of serious problems like retinal tearing or detachment, bleeding in the eye, or inflammation in the eye. These conditions can lead to permanent vision loss if left untreated. If you are noticing new floaters within your field of vision, it is important these are assessed promptly.
In cases where floaters are benign and not caused by a serious eye condition, they tend to resolve spontaneously after a few months. In a minority of patients the floaters will persist and cause disabling vision problems that can be treated with a floaters-only vitrectomy or floaterectomy.
Flashes are commonly described as lightning streaks, stars, or flashing lights in the outside edges (periphery) of the eye. Flashes are caused by the vitreous pulling on the retina and stimulating the photoreceptors, which in turn creates a flash.
Flashing lights may be a symptom of a retinal detachment or a retinal tear. If you are experiencing flashes, it is important to consult your eye doctor quickly as an untreated retinal detachment can lead to irreversible blindness.
If a retinal tear has developed but the retina has not yet detached, your retinal specialist will treat the retinal tear with laser retinopexy or cryotherapy. Both of these treatments cause a scar to develop around the retinal tear which prevents the retina from detaching.
Flashes may be accompanied by the presence of floaters – small shapes that appear as dark dots or thread-like shapes in your vision. Because the retina does not contain pain receptors these symptoms are painless.
Retinal vein occlusion (RVO) is a common vascular disorder of the retina and a frequent cause of blindness. RVO is blockage of the veins that remove blood from the eye’s retina and typically presents as an abrupt painless loss of vision in one eye.
Retinal vein occlusion is most frequently caused by hardening of the retinal arteries which then compresses the underlying retinal vein. This condition most frequently occurs in patients over the age of 50 who have other risk factors for atherosclerosis, such as hypertension, diabetes or high cholesterol. Glaucoma is also an important risk factor for developing vein occlusion, and these risk factors will need to be addressed if a vein occlusion occurs.
If left untreated the blocked blood vessel can result in swelling of the macula (aka macular edema) and growth of abnormal blood vessels that can leak and bleed, leading to permanent vision loss. RVO is most frequently treated with intravitreal Anti-VEGF injections (Avastin, Lucentis, Eylea) or steroid injections, and occasionally laser treatment. None of these treatments actually unblock the affected blood vessel, but deal with the swelling and abnormal blood vessel growth that result from the occlusion. In the majority of patients the vessel blockage is permanent and therefore requires ongoing treatment. In only a small percentage of patients will the blood vessel spontaneously unblock.