Get familiar with eye diseases that slowly progress

Get familiar with slowly progressive  eye diseases

Do all eye diseases develop suddenly? Actually, the answer is no! For example, you would not wake up one day and have an ectatic corneal condition like keratoconus. In fact, some eye diseases develop and progress slowly over months or years, the most popular of these would be cataracts and keratoconus.

The following article discusses these conditions and the natural course of the disease 

Keratoconus:

 this condition is one of the  most popular chronically or slowly progressive ocular conditions that takes years to affect and actually impair a person’s vision. In this condition the cornea, the clear window at the front of the eye loses its natural spherical contour, and becomes thinned out ,bulging out at weak points and assuming a conical shape. This abnormality of shape and contour affects the bending of light rays at the corneal interface , causing irregular bending and defocus of these rays when they fall onto the retina, leading to drop of visual clarity and acuity. 

The condition affects one or both eyes with varying degrees, and the average age of affection is between 15 -25 years . 

What causes keratoconus?

The actual cause is unknown yet, but  research has shed light that a deficiency of certain building enzymes within the corneal stroma.

  The wear and tear that is constantly repaired by these enzymes is slowed down, causing excessive accumulation of diseased collagen fibers and oxygen free radicles,

 leading to weakening of the corneal stromal bridges, and hence weakness  and forward bulge of the cornea.

 Research has also linked the condition to certain hereditary factors and genetic conditions, which highlights the importance of family history in this condition.

 In addition, excessive unprotected exposure to sunlight and constant eye rubbing have also been implicated.

 Also the misuse of poor quality contact lenses has also been added to the predisposing factors. 

Treatment options for keratoconus:

The most popular of these is the intracorneal ring implantation,

 these semicircular devices made of PMMA are inserted within the stroma of the diseased cornea and help to restore visual clarity and acuity by flattening the cones and increasing corneal thickness therefore creating a smoother refractive surface and regular light refraction onto the retina.

Another entity of slowly progressive corneal diseases are cataracts. This entity of diseases affects  the eye’s clear crystalline lens and is popular among elderly persons those  above 60 years of age. 

What is a cataract?

This is a condition where the naturally clear crystalline eye lens that aids in the proper bending of light entering the eye develops opacities. These opacities lead to decreased visual clarity and decreased acuity , giving the affected person the sense of looking through ground or dusty glass. It usually takes months or years to become visually significant. The only way to treat the condition is to surgically remove the lens opacity and replace it with an artificial lens to compensate the refractive power of the eye. 

The decision to undergo surgery remains upon your eye doctor’s discretion, and his decision that surgery is the ideal solution for your current symptoms, and whether or not the current opacities are in fact the cause of a decrease’s quality of life. 

So what causes cataracts?

Our lenses naturally contain a well-balanced mixed of clear soluble proteins and water. When an imbalance occurs between these two elements or another substance is introduced to the interior of the lens this results in disruption of the delicate structures. 

The proteins begin to become insoluble, opacify, and cluster together. Some of the factors below are implicated in the development of a cataract but the exact cause is unknown.  

  1. Ageing: our lens continues to grow throughout our lifetime and certain changes occur within its structure making it more opaque with time.
  2. Exposure to ultraviolet light or infrared light.
  3. Congenital cataract: some children are born with certain opacities in their lenses, which sometimes maybe associated with other diseases or factors occurring in pregnancy. 
  4. Certain diseases like diabetes cause the development of cataract
  5. Certain medications like prolonged intake of steroids.
  6. Trauma to the eye
  7. Smoking and alcohol intake.
  8. High blood pressure and obesity
  9. Genetic and hereditary factors

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About the doctor

A consultant specializing in corneal, cataract and Glaucoma Surgery and Refractive surgery in Egypt, Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology – Ain Shams University, Consultant cornea, cataract, and Glaucoma Surgery and Refractive Surgery, Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, UK.

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