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Treatment for vision problems

How are vision problems identified?

Regular eye examinations and tests are important to monitor the health of your eyes and to diagnose and correct any vision problems.

What are the treatments for vision problems?

If routine testing indicates that you have a refractive error, conventional treatment calls for wearing corrective glasses or contact lenses, and, in rare cases having corrective surgery. Almost two-thirds of the population wear corrective lenses, and that number increases markedly after the age of 65.

Conventional treatment for disorders such as short-sightedness, long-sightedness and astigmatism typically relies on corrective prescription lenses. Disorders such as cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration and retinal detachment require advanced medical and surgical treatments. Enormous progress in eye surgery has been made over the past few decades. Many people with eye problems previously felt to be untreatable now enjoy improved eyesight and an improved quality of life. This applies to individuals of every age, from infants to older people.

To treat short-sightedness your optician will usually prescribe lenses to focus visual images correctly on the retina. Depending on the specifics of your eye examination, you may have a choice between wearing conventional spectacles and contact lenses.

As an alternative to corrective lenses, or in severe cases, surgery can be performed to treat short-sightedness. Radial keratotomy is a surgical procedure in which tiny, spoke-like incisions are made in the cornea, flattening the centre and focusing images correctly on the retina. The operation is performed on one eye at a time and the success rate is good. More than three-quarters of those who have had the surgery report being fully corrected or close to it. The procedure has potential complications, however, in that vision may fluctuate, the cornea may become infected and there is some risk of corneal rupture.

Laser treatment offers results similar to or better than radial keratotomy. The laser beam removes microscopic amounts of tissue from the centre of the cornea. This effectively flattens the cornea so that light rays focus correctly on the retina.

To treat long-sightedness that does not resolve itself naturally, glasses or contact lenses can be prescribed. People typically seek treatment for long-sightedness when they begin to complain of eyestrain, especially at the end of the day.

To treat astigmatism, the accepted prescription is a lens that will correct or neutralise the effect of the uneven cornea. Again, you will usually be given a choice between glasses and contact lenses.

In cataracts, the eye's natural lens hardens and becomes cloudy, obscuring vision. Correcting the problem was once a complex procedure requiring general anaesthesia and a week in hospital. Today, a process called "lens phacoemulsification" uses ultrasound to break up the cataract and remove the tiny lens fragments through an incision so small that it usually requires no stitches. The surgeon then inserts an artificial lens implant. Local anaesthesia is used and the patient goes home from an outpatient facility within an hour or two after surgery.

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