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Hereditary Eye Diseases

Do you have family members with eye-related conditions?

The two main eye diseases in adults that have a genetic link are glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Glaucoma is a deterioration of the optic nerve caused by pressure in the eye or poor blood flow to the optic nerve. It has no symptoms at its onset. In most cases if you wait until you begin to realize there is something wrong with your vision to get glaucoma diagnosed, upwards of 70% of your optic nerve will have already been destroyed. Once the nerve is destroyed there is no way of reversing that today and treatment is focused on trying to preserve whatever nerve tissue is left.

Your chances of getting glaucoma are four to 10 times higher if you have a close relative with glaucoma. Getting your eyes examined regularly is always important but even more so if there is a family history of glaucoma.

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in most of the developed world. It too can cause serious vision loss if you wait until you have significant symptoms before a diagnosis. There are now some preventative treatments for AMD--the earlier it is detected the better off you will be.

Having a close family member with AMD may increase your chances of having the disease as much as 50 percent, making timely diagnosis and treatment imperative.

Other eye diseases that run in families include strabismus (crossed eyes), myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and astigmatism.

All of these family connections are important to know so that you and your eye doctor can together take the best possible care of your eyes. Before your next eye exam ask your relatives if they have any history of eye disease. It might not make for the lightest of conversation at your next family gathering but it could help save your vision.

 

Article contributed by Dr. Brian Wnorowski, M.D.

The content of this blog cannot be reproduced or duplicated without the express written consent of Eye IQ

 

Every Pink Eye Is NOT 'Pink Eye'

There are many things that can cause your eye to turn red.

The eye looks red when the blood vessels that are in the conjunctiva (the mucous membrane that covers the white of your eye and the backside of your eyelids) becomes dilated.

Those blood vessels often dilate when the eye gets irritated. This irritation can originate from a problem occurring inside the eye or factors from outside the eye.

The most common external factors that can cause the eye to become red are exposure to infectious organisms (mostly viruses and bacteria), environmental irritants (smoke, chemicals, sunlight), or allergens.

Infectious organisms can cause infectious conjunctivitis, or what is more commonly referred to as “pink eye.” This condition often presents with the eye being red and a mucous discharge being produced, often to such a degree that the eyelids are crusted over upon awaking in the morning. Infectious conjunctivitis can be extremely contagious and it is often advised that you severely limit your exposure to others while the problem is active. Infectious conjunctivitis caused by bacteria can be treated with antibiotic eye drops but viral conjunctivitis currently has no treatment and must run its course like the common cold.

Environmental irritants can make the eye look red for a short period of time during and immediately after exposure. The irritation is usually self-limited but may resolve more quickly with the use of over-the-counter lubricating drops or artificial tears. It is very important to understand exactly which irritant you were exposed to because there are some chemicals (acids and bases) that can cause extreme damage to the eye. So if you’re exposed to a caustic chemical you need to immediately rinse your eye out with water and seek emergency medical attention.

Allergens can cause allergic conjunctivitis, which can look very similar to pink eye but usually has significantly less mucous discharge and is usually accompanied by fairly severe itching. Allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious and can usually be treated with anti-allergy eye drops.

Infectious and allergic conjunctivitis can cause mild discomfort and itching but they rarely cause significant pain or loss of vision. A red eye with significant pain, especially when accompanied by severe light sensitivity and vision loss, often indicates more significant problems such as iritis, angle closure glaucoma or a corneal ulcer, all of which require immediate medical attention. If your eye is red and there is significant pain do not assume you have pink eye--see your eye doctor immediately!

 

Article contributed by Dr. Brian Wnorowski, M.D.

The content of this blog cannot be reproduced or duplicated without the express written consent of Eye IQ

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