Eyes: The Jewels in our Crown

Our eyes are priceless jewels given to us for free. Don’t take them for granted. Awareness, protection and prevention are the keys to healthy eyes which can be affected by a host of problems. Birth defects like congenital cataract, squint, drooping eyelids and blockage of the tear duct are not uncommon and can be surgically corrected.

Delay due to social misconceptions can leave the infant with a permanent defect. Most children visit their eye specialist for blurred vision which can be corrected with suitable spectacles or contact lenses. Sitting abnormally close to the TV, looking through ‘chinky’ eyes, headache, mistakes at school are some of the signs that should alert parents. I must emphasise that sitting close to the TV is not the cause for the child needing glasses. It is because the child sees the TV blurred from the normal distance that he/she sits close so as to get a clear picture.

Contact lense users should always keep a spectacle pair handy. Never wear lenses if your eyes are red or uncomfortable. Patients above 18 can resort to laser correction, LASIK, to get rid of their error.

With rising pollution, allergies are very common and can be treated symptomatically. Infections like conjunctivitis and sties are usually minor. Viral conjunctivitis may affect the cornea and cause blurring. Macular dystrophy, in which the central retina degenerates, is a congenital disorder which is unfortunately irreversible.

Diabetic retinopathy is a major cause of irreversible visual loss, and its incidence is alarming. All diabetics should check their retina at least once a year, no excuses.

Do not wait for visual symptoms to appear and then run to your doctor. It may be too late. A patient can have normal vision in spite of severe diabetic retinopathy, which he is unaware of. Bleeding in the eye can cause blindness overnight.

Cataract surgery, phacoemulsification with foldable implants, is the most common eye surgery performed with excellent results.

The timing of surgery depends on the patients’ needs. Nobody waits for the cataract to ‘ripen’ and the patient to go totally blind and then operate. The longer one waits, the harder the cataract becomes and the higher the risk of complications during phacoemulsification.

Macular degeneration, a scourge affecting the elderly and robbing them of their reading vision is largely irreversible in spite of some newer treatments emerging. Early symptoms include distortion, inability to recognise faces.

Floaters and flashes may signal a retinal problem. One should immediately rule out a retinal tear (which can be sealed with a short laser procedure) or a retinal detachment which will require major eye surgery.

Glaucoma is usually a silent disease in which the intraocular pressure damages the optic nerve. It can be controlled medically. Few patients may require surgery.

Eye trauma may range from minor (foreign body, abrasion) to sight threatening (perforation, bleeding, detachment).Protect your eyes at work and at play. Computer use will not damage your vision but can make your eyes chronically irritable.

If you have an eye problem do not self medicate or ask your chemist for some drops. Consult your eye specialist. The gift of sight is invaluable. It will help if we realise this before we lose it.