5 eye conditions you should know about

Written by: Mr Praveen Patel
Edited by: Cal Murphy

You will most likely have heard of eye problems like cataracts, myopia (short-sightedness), presbyopia (far-sightedness), astigmatism and glaucoma, but there are many more eye conditions that are not only common, but can be very serious – even leading to loss of sight. Here is top ophthalmologist Praveen Patel's guide to five eye conditions you may not know about, but should!

Retinal detachment

The retina is the light-sensitive layer at the back of the eye. It is crucial for sight, as it is made up of cells that convert light into electrical signals, which travel to the brain and form the image you see. However, the retina can start to peel away from the layer underneath, detaching from the blood vessels that bring it the oxygen and nutrients it needs, starving the light-sensitive cells necessary to see.


Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)

The macula is a small oval part of the retina, which is responsible for our central vision. It has a high density of cone cells (which provide colour vision) and the macula therefore provides the high-definition colour vision we experience in well-lit areas. However, aging and other factors (genetics, smoking, etc.) can cause cells in the macula to lose function, making them less effective in detecting light, which leads to a deterioration in central vision. Everything becomes blurred – reading becomes difficult, colours appear faded and people’s faces can be difficult to distinguish. The earliest symptoms however, can be much more subtle and can include failing vision at dawn, dusk and in poorly-lit environments. This usually occurs in older people, and is often known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) or macular degeneration. There are two distinct variations of AMD.


Diabetic retinopathy

Diabetes can affect the body in a number of ways, including the eyes. To function, the retina needs a constant blood supply, but the regular high levels of blood sugar caused by diabetes can cause the tiny blood vessels supplying the retina to bulge, bleed and begin to form scar tissue, which can have devastating effects on your vision if left untreated. Alternatively, high levels of blood sugar together with high blood pressure and elevated blood cholesterol levels can lead to the blockage of tiny blood vessels in the retina, which leads to problems with the function of light-detecting photoreceptor cells, leading to loss of vision.


Macular oedema

Frequently seen as a result of a range of retinal conditions including diabetic retinopathy, retinal vein occlusion, and conditions which cause inflammation in the eye (uveitis), macular oedema describes swelling in the macula due to a build-up of fluid leaked from damaged blood vessels. This swelling can distort vision, and leads to loss of vision if severe or untreated.


Retinal vein occlusion

Retinal vein occlusion is when one of the blood vessels that carries blood away from the retina becomes blocked, usually by a clot, or by pressure from a nearby hardened artery. This blockage causes leakage of blood and other fluids into the retina, which in turn causes oedema, swelling, bleeding into the retina, and prevents sufficient oxygen reaching the retina. It is one of the most common causes of sudden, painless loss of sight.

If you are experiencing any problems with your vision, you should consult your doctor or an ophthalmologist.

By Mr Praveen Patel

Mr Praveen Patel is an internationally-revered and award-winning consultant ophthalmologist based in central London, Bath, Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire and St Albans. He specialises in macular degeneration (AMD), retinas and retinal vein occlusion alongside diabetic retinopathy, macular oedema and intravitreal injection. He privately practices for Moorfields Private Outpatients Centre, The Rivers Hospital, London Medical and the Eyesight Clinic at the Redbourn Health Centre. He also works for the NHS at the world-renowned Moorfields Eye Hospital and Princess Alexandra Hospital in London.

Mr Patel is passionate about providing cutting-edge treatments for patients on the NHS and privately. He is the lead consultant for medical retina clinical trials and retinal imaging at Moorfields Eye Hospital and the age-related macular degeneration treatment service at the Princess Alexandra Hospital Trust, in partnership with Moorfields Eye Hospital. 

Mr Patel, who has a special interest in cataracts and retinal and macular disease, qualified from Cambridge University in 1997 with a first class degree. This was followed by postgraduate training in Ophthalmology at Moorfields Eye Hospital, London.   
Mr Patel has an esteemed reputation for excellence in patient care for macular disease, including the use of the injectable medications Lucentis, Eylea and Ozurdex as well as Avastin. Verteporfin photodynamic therapy and advanced macular laser treatments are also incorporated into his skilful practice. His clinical research reflects his expertise to the highest standard; Mr Patel won the Moorfields Research Medal for his work, as one of the lead investigators for the world's first randomised trial of Avastin for age-related macular degeneration, which was published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

His research work has also extended to validating new imaging modalities for the assessment of macular disease and he is a clinical research fellow at Moorfields and at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology.

Mr Patel's work has been published in various peer-reviewed journals and he is an international member of the Association for Research in Vision & Ophthalmology (ARVO) and member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) and the Royal Society of Medicine (RSM). He is also a fellow of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists.

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