In celebration of Eye Care Awareness Month, spanning from 21 September to 18 October, awareness is raised about the importance of eye health, specifically around the prevention and treatment of avoidable blindness.
In lieu of Eye Care Awareness, Dr Asgar Ali Sahib shares his knowledge on the subject. Being an ophthalmologist, Dr Sahib specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the eye.
Dr Sahib begins by stating, “Your eyes are the windows to the live action of blood vessels, nerves and connective tissues in your body. Problems spotted in the eye are often the first signs of disease lurking elsewhere in the body.”
Going on to add, several medical conditions are detectable through the eyes — such as:
- Aneurysms – This is a thinning in the wall of a blood vessel, which may need urgent medical attention.
- Brain tumours – Optic nerve swelling or visual field defects can indicate brain tumours.
- Cancer – The disease can present itself as skin cancer on the eyelids, as well as on parts of the eyeball. Some retinal signs can even point towards leukaemia (blood/bone marrow cancer). Elaborating on this, Dr Sahib says, “Cancer from other parts of the body can spread to the eye and be detected in the eye first.”
- Diabetes – Cataracts and or bleeding in the retina could indicate diabetes.
- Cholesterol – Corneal and retinal deposits may be a sign of raised cholesterol.
- High blood pressure – High blood pressure can be detected through the eyes, as it reflects in the retinal blood vessels.
- Systematic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) – SLE is an inflammatory condition caused by the immune system attacking itself. It presents as uveitis of the eye.
- Sarcoidosis – Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory condition within the body. This medical condition presents itself with specific inflammation of the eye.
- Rheumatoid arthritis – This can also be detected when the eye is very dry and becomes inflamed.
- Multiple Sclerosis – MS presents itself with optic neuritis.
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases – STDs may also be detected in the eye.
- Thyroid gland – An overactive thyroid may present with double vision or bulging eyes.
For those who don’t suffer from severe eye conditions, but instead suffer from seasonal eye conditions, Dr Sahib explains, allergic conjunctivitis is a common condition which affects numerous people.
As these allergies are usually seasonal, Dr Sahib explains, “They present with severe itching, as well as redness and watering of the eyes. It causes severe discomfort, and the constant rubbing of the eyes can be detrimental. This can lead to the eye changing shape over time. This is known as astigmatism / keratoconus, which can be blinding.”
Interestingly, he adds that some people require spectacles only because they rubbed their eyes.
Therefore, he states, “Allergen avoidance, where possible, is advised. Simple cold compression of the eyes using a cold facecloth may relieve itching.”
When looking at seasonal treatments, an important question comes to the forefront. Are there any long-term consequences of using medications such as eye drops to the eye’s overall health?
Dr Sahib confirms, when self-medicating ocular allergies, he says it is unfortunate that many patients self-treat severe sight-threatening ocular allergies. “On the other hand, there are those that are given cortisone eye drops to treat eye allergies on a long-term basis. This has serious long-term side effects like glaucoma (increased eye pressure) as well as cataract formation,” he concludes.
With an array of medical conditions linked to eye care, it is crucial to consult with your local optometrist and ophthalmologists regularly — as early detection presents far great opportunities in remedying the issue.