An intricate and complex system, the eyes take in and process light and communicate information to the brain through electronic impulses. Several diseases and conditions – bacterial, viral, and genetic – can affect the health of the eyes and their ability to function properly. Any sign of unusual eye symptoms such as pain, discomfort or a change in vision should prompt a visit with an eye care professional.
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) Retinitis
Associated with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), this disease also affects people whose immune systems have been compromised for other reasons like undergoing chemotherapy or bone marrow transplant. The virus invades the retina and damages the photoreceptor cells, causing floaters, flashes and changes in vision, such as blurry vision and/or decreased peripheral vision. If it is left untreated, CMV retinitis can lead to detached retina and blindness.
An eye condition in which the cornea weakens, thins, and loses its normal round shape, keratoconus causes astigmatism and nearsightedness. Though the exact cause has not yet been discovered, research has shown that an imbalance in the enzymes within the cornea might cause keratoconus. No cure has yet been found for keratoconus, but some effective methods of treatment which slow its progression and reduce symptoms have been developed.
Fuchs’ Corneal Dystrophy
Fuchs’ corneal dystrophy is an inherited disease that causes the death of endothelial cells which regulate fluid in the cornea. This leads to corneal edema (swelling). Symptoms include glare, blurred or distorted vision, a cloudy or hazy cornea, painful blisters on the cornea, corneal thickening, and corneal swelling.
Macular dystrophy is a genetic disorder that damages the photoreceptor cells located on the macula (the center of the retina), which leads to a loss of central vision. Central vision is used to look straight ahead and is necessary for activities such as reading, driving, and recognizing faces. There are two types of macular dystrophy: Best disease, which affects children, and adult onset macular dystrophy, which occurs in adulthood.
Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP)
RP is a rare inherited disease that causes the photoreceptor cells in the retina to degenerate progressively. This degeneration first narrows the field of vision, leading to decreased night vision. Eventually, photoreceptors deteriorate so much that the disease causes near blindness with only slight peripheral and a small area of central vision remaining.
Stargardt disease is a form of inherited macular dystrophy which affects children and young adults and is characterized by the death of photoreceptor cells on the macula (the center of the retina). Sufferers usually lose central vision, while their peripheral vision remains intact.