Patient Education

Dry Eyes

Dry Eye Syndrome is a common condition affecting many people as they age. Symptoms include burning, tearing, itching, or foreign body sensation. It may be caused by aging, medications, systemic medical conditions, hormonal changes, or lid abnormalities. Tears may be inadequate or of poor quality to adequately lubricate the eye. Many people wonder how their eyes can be dry if they have excess tearing, but this is simply the eye’s reaction to the irritation of surface dryness. Dry eyes can be diagnosed during a routine examination. Your doctor may perform special tests to determine if your tear production is adequate. Treatment usually consists of the use of artificial tears. Additionally, there is an eye drop which may help increase your eye’s tear production. Occasionally, the canals that drain tears are plugged so as to maintain tears on the eye for a longer time.


A cataract is a clouding or yellowing of the eye’s natural lens. It is generally a normal aging change of the eye. It also can be associated with certain medications, smoking, excessive ultraviolet light exposure, hereditary conditions, and certain diseases such as diabetes. Symptoms include blurred vision, glare or difficulty with bright lights, poor night vision, double vision in one eye, or yellowing of colors. A cataract can be detected during a routine eye examination. The appropriate time to remove the cataract surgically is when a person’s vision is significantly affected by the cataract. During the procedure, the ophthalmologist uses a special machine utilizing ultrasound energy to remove the cataract and replace it with an artificial lens. In the United States, more than 95% of patients undergoing cataract surgery experience an improvement in their vision. Occasionally, after the surgery, a clouding occurs in the membrane behind the lens implant. This can cause symptoms similar to the original cataract. This can be easily treated with a rather simple laser procedure.


Glaucoma is a progressive disease of the optic nerve, the nerve which connects the eye to the brain. It causes loss of peripheral vision initially and can, if untreated, lead to blindness. It is one of the leading causes of blindness among African-Americans. It generally affects older individuals, generally in their 50s or 60s, though it can affect people at any age. It is usually associated with elevated intraocular pressure. Determining if someone has glaucoma requires a thorough eye examination including measurement of intraocular pressure, evaluation of the optic nerve, and measurement of corneal thickness. Special testing is usually required as well to determine if there are any peripheral vision changes or damage to the optic nerve. Treatment generally requires daily eye drops to lower intraocular pressure, though it may become necessary to use laser therapy or surgery to control the disease. Treatment is meant to prevent progressive damage and can not reverse damage that has already occurred. It is therefore important to have routine examinations so that the disease can be caught as early as possible. Periodic follow up is required to make sure that the disease remains under control.

Glaucoma suspects are patients who, for one reason or another, are at higher risk for glaucoma but do not have the disease. These individuals generally require periodic follow up as well, though they may or may not be undergoing any treatment. They generally will undergo periodic visual field and optic nerve testing. These patients are followed more frequently than the average patient but not as often as a glaucoma patient.

Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is a common condition that affect many older Americans, and it is one of the leading causes of blindness among older Americans. Symptoms include distortion of vision such as straight lines appearing wavy, difficulty or inability to see details, and seeing blank or missing spots in your vision. Risk factors include age over 60, smoking, hypertension, and a family history of macular degeneration. There are two types of disease; “wet” and “dry.” The “dry” type is most common affecting approximately 90% of patients. There is no specific treatment at this time for this type of disease, though vitamins, diet modifications, and cessation of smoking tend to slow progression of the disease. The “wet” type, while less common, tends to cause more severe visual loss. Treatments for this type of disease include laser therapy as well as intraocular medication.

Floaters, Flashes, and Vitreous Detachment

Floaters are particles that form in the jelly that fills the inside of the eye called vitreous. By themselves, they are harmless and do not require treatment. In some instances, however, they may be a symptom of a retinal detachment which is a vision threatening condition and requires urgent attention. With a dilated examination, your doctor can determine if there is a retinal detachment.

When we are young, the vitreous is attached to the retina, the nerves that line the inside of the eye. As we age, the vitreous condenses and can pull away from the retina. This separation of vitreous from the retina is called a vitreous detachment. Individuals may experience seeing flashing lights and an increase in floaters. Infrequently, this process can lead to a retinal tear or detachment. While the vitreous detachment is in itself harmless, a retinal detachment is a serious and vision threatening condition which requires prompt attention. Anyone seeing flashing lights should be evaluated promptly to determine if there is a retinal tear or detachment. Your eye doctor can make this determination with a dilated examination.


Blepharitis is a common lid problem. Inflammation of the lid margin and overgrowth of bacteria are commonly present. Scales can form around the bases of the lashes, and often the small oil glands of the eyelid do not function properly. The openings of these glands can become blocked as the secretions become thickened, leading to inflammation of the glands. These conditions can lead to dryness, irritation, and redness of the eyes. This is a chronic condition which requires continual treatment to keep it under control. Some people will have flare-ups of inflammation despite regular treatment. Some people may be able to use the lid treatment less often than others.

The main treatment of blepharitis is lid hygiene. Cleansing of the lid margins removes excess oil and scales reducing  the bacteria. Antibiotic ointment and oral antibiotics may also be of benefit.

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