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The doctors at Horizon Vision Center are trained to treat a wide variety of ocular conditions. Here are a few of the more common ocular conditions we see.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is an eye disease in which the internal pressure in your eyes increases enough to damage the nerve fibers in your optic nerve and cause vision loss. The increase in pressure happens when the passages that normally allow fluid in your eyes to drain become clogged or blocked. The reasons that the passages become blocked are not known.

Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in the U.S. It most often occurs in people over age 40. People with a family history of glaucoma, African Americans, and those who are very nearsighted or diabetic are at a higher risk of developing the disease.

The most common type of glaucoma develops gradually and painlessly, without symptoms. A rarer type occurs rapidly and its symptoms may include blurred vision, loss of side vision, seeing colored rings around lights and pain or redness in the eyes.

Glaucoma cannot be prevented, but if diagnosed and treated early, it can be controlled. Vision lost to glaucoma cannot be restored. That is why the American Optometric Association recommends annual eye examinations for people at risk for glaucoma (your doctor may, depending on your condition, recommend more frequent examinations). A comprehensive optometric examination will include a tonometry test to measure the pressure in your eyes; an examination of the inside of your eyes and optic nerves; and a visual field test to check for changes in central and side vision.

The treatment for glaucoma includes prescription eye drops and medicines to lower the pressure in your eyes. In some cases, laser treatment or surgery may be effective in reducing pressure.

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Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetes is a disease that interferes with the body's ability to use and store sugar and can cause many health problems. One, called diabetic retinopathy, can weaken and cause changes in the small blood vessels that nourish your eye's retina, the delicate, light sensitive lining of the back of the eye. These blood vessels may begin to leak, swell or develop brush-like branches.

The early stages of diabetic retinopathy may cause blurred vision, or they may produce no visual symptoms at all. As the disease progresses, you may notice a cloudiness of vision, blind spots or floaters.

If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can cause blindness, which is one reason why it is important to have your eyes examined regularly by your doctor of optometry. This is especially true if you are a diabetic or if you have a family history of diabetes.

To detect diabetic retinopathy, your optometrist can look inside your eyes with an instrument called an ophthalmoscope that lights and magnifies the blood vessels in your eyes. If you have diabetic retinopathy, laser and other surgical treatments can be used to reduce its progression and decrease the risk of vision loss. Early treatment is important because once damage has occurred, the effects are usually permanent.

If you are a diabetic, you can help prevent diabetic retinopathy by taking your prescribed medication as instructed, sticking to your diet, exercising regularly, controlling high blood pressure and avoiding alcohol and smoking.

November is National Diabetes Month. Members of the American Optometric Association are joining with members of other health care organizations in an effort to prevent blindness in Americans with diabetes. If you or a member of your family has not received a dilated eye examination in the past year, you should contact your optometrist for an appointment.

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Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in America. It results from changes to the macula, a portion of the retina that is responsible for clear, sharp vision, and is located at the back of the eye.

Most people with macular degeneration have the dry form, for which there is no known treatment. The less common wet form may respond to laser procedures, if diagnosed and treated early.

Some common symptoms are a gradual loss of ability to see objects clearly, distorted vision, a gradual loss of color vision and a dark or empty area appearing in the center of vision.

If you experience any of these, contact your doctor of optometry immediately for a comprehensive examination.

Central vision that is lost to macular degeneration cannot be restored. However, low vision devices such as telescopic and microscopic lenses can be prescribed to make the most out of remaining vision.

Recent research indicates certain vitamins and minerals may help prevent or slow the progression of macular degeneration. Ask your doctor of optometry about these. After age 60, an annual, comprehensive eye examination is important to maintain eye health.

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Cataract

A cataract is a cloudy or opaque area in the normally clear lens of the eye. Depending on its size and location, it can interfere with normal vision. Most cataracts develop in persons over age 55, but they occasionally occur in infants and young children. Usually people develop cataracts in both eyes, but one eye may have somewhat worse vision than the other.

The lens is located inside the eye behind the iris, the colored part of the eye. It works like a camera lens to focus light on the back of the eye, the retina. The lens is made of mostly proteins and water. Clouding of the lens occurs due to changes in the proteins and lens fibers.

The lens is composed of layers like an onion. The outermost is the capsule. The middle layer is the cortex and the innermost layer is the nucleus.
 

A cataract may develop in any of these areas and is described based on its location in the lens:
  • A cortical cataract affects the middle layer of the lens. It is identified by its unique wedge or spoke appearance.
  • A nuclear cataract is located in the center of the lens. The nucleus tends to darken changing from clear to yellow and sometimes brown
  • A posterior capsular cataract is found in the back outer layer of the lens. This type often develops more rapidly


Normally, the lens focuses light on the retina, which sends the image through the optic nerve to the brain. However, if the lens is clouded by a cataract, light is scattered so the lens can no longer focus it properly, causing vision problems.

Cataracts generally form very slowly. Symptoms of a cataract may include:

  • Blurred or hazy vision
  • Colors of objects may not appear as bright or it may be more difficult to distinguish between certain colors
  • Increased sensitivity to glare from lights, particularly when driving at night
  • Seeing multiple images
  • Difficulty seeing at night
  • Temporary improvement in near vision


While the process by which cataracts form is becoming more clearly understood, there is no clinically established treatment to prevent or slow their progression. In age-related cataracts, changes in vision can be very gradual. Some people may not initially recognize the visual changes. However, as cataracts worsen vision symptoms tend to increase in severity.

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Blepharitis

Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids and eyelashes causing red, irritated, itchy eyelids and the formation of dandruff-like scales on eyelashes. It is a common eye disorder generally caused by either a bacterial infection or a general skin condition such as dandruff of the scalp or acne rosacea. It affects people of all ages. Although uncomfortable, blepharitis is not contagious and does not cause any permanent damage to eyesight.

Blepharitis is classified into two types:

  • Anterior blepharitis occurs at the outside front edge of the eyelid where the eyelashes are attached
  • Posterior blepharitis affects the inner surface of the eyelid that comes in contact with the eyeball


Individuals with blepharitis may experience a gritty or burning sensation in their eyes, excessive tearing, itching, red and swollen eyelids, dry eyes, or crusting of the eyelids. For some people, blepharitis causes only minor irritation and itching. However, it can lead to more severe symptoms such as blurring of vision, missing or misdirected eyelashes, and inflammation of other eye tissue, particularly the cornea.

In many cases, good eyelid hygiene and a regular cleaning routine can control blepharitis. This includes frequent scalp and face washing, using warm compresses to soak the eyelids, and doing eyelid scrubs. In cases where a bacterial infection is the cause, various antibiotics and other medications may be prescribed along with eyelid hygiene.

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Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin, transparent layer that lines the inner eyelid and covers the white part of the eye.

The three main types of conjunctivitis are infectious, allergic and chemical. The infectious type, commonly called "pink eye," is caused by a contagious virus or bacteria. Your body's allergies to pollen, cosmetics, animals or fabrics often bring on allergic conjunctivitis. And, irritants like air pollution, noxious fumes and chlorine in swimming pools may produce the chemical form.

Common symptoms of conjunctivitis are red watery eyes, inflamed inner eyelids, blurred vision, a scratchy feeling in the eyes and, sometimes, a puslike or watery discharge. Conjunctivitis can sometimes develop into something that can harm vision so you should see your optometrist promptly for diagnosis and treatment.

A good way to treat allergic or chemical conjunctivitis is to avoid the cause. If that does not work, prescription or over-the-counter eye drops may relieve discomfort. Infectious conjunctivitis, caused by bacteria, can be treated with antibiotic eye drops. Other forms, caused by viruses, cannot be treated with antibiotics. They must be fought off by your body's immune system.

To control the spread of infectious conjunctivitis, you should keep your hands away from your eyes, thoroughly wash your hands before applying eye medications and do not share towels, washcloths, cosmetics or eye drops with others.

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Keratitis

Keratitis is an inflammation of the cornea — the clear, dome-shaped tissue on the front of your eye that covers the pupil and iris. Keratitis may or may not involve an infection. Noninfectious keratitis can be caused by a relatively minor injury, such as a fingernail scratch, or from wearing your contact lenses too long. Infectious keratitis can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites.

If you have eye redness or other symptoms of keratitis, make an appointment to see your doctor at Horizon Vision Center. With prompt attention, mild to moderate cases of keratitis can usually be effectively treated without loss of vision. If left untreated, or if an infection is severe, keratitis can lead to serious complications that may permanently damage your vision.

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Dry Eye

The tears your eyes produce are necessary for overall eye health and clear vision. Dry eye means that your eyes do not produce enough tears or that you produce tears that do not have the proper chemical composition. Often, dry eye is part of the natural aging process. It can also be caused by blinking or eyelid problems, medications like antihistamines, oral contraceptives and antidepressants, a dry climate, wind and dust, general health problems like arthritis or Sjogren's syndrome and chemical or thermal burns to your eyes.

If you have dry eye, your symptoms may include irritated, scratchy, dry, uncomfortable or red eyes, a burning sensation or feeling of something foreign in your eyes and blurred vision. Excessive dry eyes may damage eye tissue, scar your cornea (the front covering of your eyes) and impair vision and make contact lens wear difficult.

If you have symptoms of dry eye, see your optometrist for a comprehensive examination. Dry eye cannot be cured, but your optometrist can prescribe treatment so your eyes remain healthy and your vision is unaffected. Some treatments that your optometrist might prescribe include blinking more frequently, increasing humidity at home or work, using artificial tears and using a moisturizing ointment, especially at bedtime. In some cases, small plugs are inserted in the corner of the eyes to slow tear drainage. Sometimes, surgical closure of the drainage ducts may be recommended.
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