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An Ophthalmologist is an eye physician and surgeon. He or she is an eye doctor who has completed 4 years of medical school after college to become a physician (or an "M.D."), and then has completed 4 years of residency to specialize in eye surgery and treatment of medical diseases of the eye.
The eyeball is like a camera. There is a lens in the front part of the eye that focuses light and a film in the back of the eye that senses light. The cataract is the natural lens in the eye that has become cloudy over time. This process of cataract formation starts to happen to everyone around the age of 50, but affects vision sooner in some people than others. Symptoms include blurry vision that is not fixed completely by glasses and glare at night.
Glaucoma is a disease of the eye that causes very slow and painless loss of vision. It causes loss of peripheral vision first and in the late stages can affect central vision and in some people cause blindness. This vision loss is caused by slow damage to the optic nerve, which is the large nerve that connects your eye to your brain. Glaucoma cannot be cured, but can be treated and vision loss prevented by lowering eye pressure. This can be done in most people by prescription eye drops but some patients require surgery.
Thinking again of the eye as a camera, macular degeneration is a disease that affects the film of the camera, which in your eye is the retina. The retina is the wallpaper that lines the inside of your eye and is what senses light. The most important part of the retina is the macula, which is the bullseye where most light gets focused. The macula allows you to see clear details in the center of your vision. Macular degeneration causes loss of this central vision. There are two types: dry and wet. Dry macular degeneration is the most common type, and causes very gradual loss of central vision. The Wet type is less common, but can cause rapid and sometimes sudden loss of central vision.
The high blood sugar and diabetes affects every part of your body, even and especially your eye. The high blood sugar, in particular, damages small blood vessels. There are numerous small blood vessels in the retina, which is the wallpaper inside your eye that senses light (like film in the camera). When these small blood vessels are damaged, they can leak and cause swelling in the retina leading to vision loss. In the late stages, the retina can start growing new blood vessels that bleed and can cause scar tissue to form that detaches the retina from the wall of the eye. This can lead to blindness. Screening eye exams can detect very early diabetic changes in the retina, and if necessary allow us to treat the eye and prevent blindness.
Most of us have some floaters, or little specs or spider webs that float around in our vision. However, new floaters can be a sign of a retinal tear that could lead to a retinal detachment. Any new floaters or flashes of light should therefore be taken seriously and a thorough exam of the retina is needed to look for a retinal tear.
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