Women's Eye Health Initiative
The Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio received a very generous donation from Mrs. Donnie Fraser Stitt which enabled the creation of the Women's Eye Health Initiative. Mrs. Stitt was a patient who was grateful for the treatment that our clinical faculty provided to her. Her wish was that our department provide eye care and information specifically to women. It is with donations such as these that allow us to expand our services and community outreach. We are very appreciative and humbled by such generosity.
One example of the community outreach made possible by Mrs. Stitt's generosity is a brochure providing information about eye diseases prevalent in women (but which also can occur in men). The brochure (which follows below) will be distributed throughout the local community, specifically to female patients and to health care providers, to make them aware of eye diseases and the broad array of vision resources available to treat these diseases. The brochure will also be made available in Spanish.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that affect the optic nerve, which, if left untreated, can lead to vision loss or blindness. It may gradually steal your sight without warning. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world.
Glaucoma impaired vision
What is the optic nerve?
The optic nerve is a bundle of nerves that carries images from the eye to the brain. It acts like an electric cable with over a million wires. Vision loss is caused by damage to the optic nerve and its wires.
How would I know if I have glaucoma?
Glaucoma seldom has symptoms until late in the disease process. In very rare cases, severe eye pain, light sensitivity, and nausea have been reported in people having an acute attack of glaucoma. Over time, a person with glaucoma may notice that his or her side vision is failing. Only your eye care specialist (ophthalmologist) can determine if you have glaucoma.
How is glaucoma treated?
Current treatment for glaucoma varies from person to person. Medications (eye drops and occasionally pills), laser surgery, and conventional surgery are most widely used to treat glaucoma. Early detection and treatment is the best way to control glaucoma.
Who is at risk for developing glaucoma?
You may have a higher risk of developing glaucoma if:
- You have a family history (mother, father, siblings) of glaucoma.
- You have had an eye injury.
- You have diabetes.
- You are a woman over 40 years of age.
- You are over 60 years of age.
- You are of African American or Mexican American descent.
Anyone is at risk of developing glaucoma from birth to adulthood; that’s why early detection is so important! A complete dilated ophthalmological eye exam should be performed every two years unless you have any of the risk factors listed above. If you are at risk for developing glaucoma, you should see your ophthalmologist every year.
What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
Diabetic Retinopathy is a disease of the inside lining of your eye (known as the retina) in some people with diabetes. Diabetic Retinopathy, if left untreated, can cause permanent vision loss or blindness. The retinal blood vessels become damaged, leaking fluid and blood and causing swelling of the retina. The retina requires oxygen to function properly. It is believed that, in diabetic retinopathy, there is a lack of oxygen being sent to the retina. In some cases the retina begins to sprout new blood vessels in an attempt to get more oxygen to the back of the eye. The problem with these new blood vessels is they may grow in places where they can cause retinal detachment, which may cause vision loss or blindness.
Diabetic retinopathy impaired vision
How would I know if I have diabetic retinopathy?
There are often no symptoms or pain in the early stages of Diabetic Retinopathy. Blurry vision and seeing spots floating in your vision have been reported. You should not wait for symptoms to occur. Only your eye care specialist (ophthalmologist) can determine if you have diabetic retinopathy.
How is diabetic retinopathy treated?
Laser surgery is most widely used to treat diabetic retinopathy. Conventional surgery may be required in severe cases. Early detection and timely treatment can prevent vision loss.
Who is at risk for developing diabetic retinopathy?
- You have any form or type of diabetes.
- Your diabetes is uncontrolled.
- You have had diabetes for many years. The longer someone has diabetes, the more likely they are to develop the disease.
- You are pregnant and have uncontrolled diabetes.
A complete dilated ophthalmological eye exam should be performed every year if you have diabetes and especially if your diabetes is not controlled. Remember early detection can prevent vision loss!
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
What is Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)?
AMD is a disease associated with aging that slowly destroys your central retina (known as the macula), affecting your central vision. There are two types of AMD: dry AMD and wet AMD. Dry AMD occurs when light sensitive cells begin to break down gradually causing blurring of your central vision. Dry AMD is much more common and usually affects both eyes. Wet AMD occurs when abnormal blood vessels start to grow under the area of your retina where your central vision occurs. The blood vessels often leak fluid and blood causing damage to your central vision. Loss of your central vision can occur quickly.
Age-related macular degeneration impaired vision
What is central vision?
Central vision is used for seeing objects sharply and clearly, like reading, driving, and recognizing people’s faces.
How would I know if I have AMD?
There is no pain with AMD. The most common early sign of dry AMD is blurry vision in your central vision, such as blurry faces or words in a book that appear blurry. These symptoms may or may not improve with a bright light. The most common early sign of wet AMD is that lines appear to be crooked or distorted and you may develop a small blind spot in your central vision.
How is AMD treated?
Wet AMD can be treated with laser surgery and injections to the eye. Another treatment is called photodynamic therapy where a drug is injected into your arm and a special laser is used to activate the drug. None of these treatments are a cure for wet AMD but may slow its progression. Once dry AMD has advanced there is no form of treatment to prevent vision loss. Studies however have shown that taking a specific high-dose of antioxidants and zinc reduce the risk of advanced AMD. Commercial preparations are available over the counter.
Who is at risk for developing AMD?
You may have a higher risk of developing AMD if:
- You have a family history (mother, father, siblings) of AMD.
- You are over 60 years of age.
- You are of Caucasian descent.
- You are a woman.
- You have AMD in one eye.
- You are obese.
- You smoke.
A complete dilated ophthalmological eye exam should be performed every two years. If you have dry AMD you should see your ophthalmologist every year. If you have wet AMD and have been told you need treatment, do not wait.