Ophthalmology is a branch of medicine that involves the study and treatment of eye disorders and diseases.
Your eyes are complex organs, made up of many different parts, and there are numerous eye diseases and conditions that can affect them. Common problems include: cataracts, cornea conditions, glaucoma, and retinal disease.
Our highly skilled consultant ophthalmologists diagnose and treat many eye diseases and perform eye surgery. Many of our ophthalmologists are also involved in scientific research on the causes and cures for eye diseases and vision disorders. They are knowledgeable of, and experienced with, the latest treatment options and procedures for our patients in order to provide the best care possible.
At Ramsay Health Care UK hospitals, we diagnose and treat a wide range of common and complex eye conditions. We provide diagnostic services to assess conditions including: glaucoma, retinal diseases, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, corneal problems and eye cancers. We offer the latest treatments including no needle cataract surgery, cornea transplant surgery, and refractive surgery, as well as cosmetic procedures such as blepharoplasty.
A cataract is a clouding of the lens in your eye, which causes blurred vision. Cataracts are very common, and can occur naturally as a result of ageing of the eye after the age of 40. Congenital cataracts may be present at birth or developed during childhood.
Cataract symptoms include: deterioration of your distance and reading vision, blurred or dimmed vision, increased sensitivity to light and glare, difficulty driving at night and, no improvement in vision even with stronger glasses.
Not all cataracts require treatment, but if your vision is affected to the point where it interferes with your work or lifestyle, cataract surgery may be recommended.
The cornea is the clear dome-shaped front surface of your eye and there are a number of conditions that can affect it:
- Keratitis - an inflammation of the cornea, sometimes caused by an infection involving bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites or by a minor injury, wearing your contact lenses too long or other non-infectious diseases. Symptoms include: severe pain, redness, blurred vision, excess tears and discharge and, sensitivity to light. Treatment usually involves medication but if your keratitis doesn't respond to medication, or if it causes permanent damage to the cornea that significantly impairs your vision, your ophthalmologist may recommend a cornea transplant.
- Injuries – deep injuries or scratches can cause corneal scarring and result in a haze on the cornea that impairs vision.
- Allergies – pollen is the most common and antihistamine decongestant eye drops will relieve the symptoms.
- Dry eyes - a condition where your eye produces fewer or lower quality tears and is unable to keep its surface lubricated. Artificial tear drops and ointments are the primary treatment but if these don’t work then surgery may be required.
- Corneal dystrophy – the most common is keratoconus which is a progressive thinning of the cornea that causes it to weaken and become conical in shape. The conical shape makes the cornea appear to ‘bulge’ from the eye socket and blurs your vision. Treatment includes contact lenses, corneal implants and corneal transplants.
- Ocular herpes - herpes of the eye is a recurrent viral infection that’s caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1). It’s controlled by anti-viral drugs.
- Herpes Zoster (shingles) - a recurrence of the chickenpox virus if you’ve already had the disease. It can emerge and cause lesions on the cornea. Antiviral treatment reduces the risk of inflammation and scarring in the cornea.
Glaucoma is an eye condition where pressure builds up in the eye as fluids aren’t draining properly. This pressure can damage your eye’s optic nerve, eventually causing vision loss.
There are several types of glaucoma. The most common type is chronic open-angle glaucoma which usually develops slowly in both eyes and causes a gradual loss of sight. It doesn’t cause pain or redness or dramatic vision changes. Acute (angle closure) glaucoma causes a sudden increase in the pressure within one eye which becomes red and painful and is often accompanied by misty vision and episodes of seeing haloes around lights.
Secondary glaucoma results from other diseases of the eye that cause a rise in the pressure within the eye.
Medication is normally the first treatment choice. If this doesn’t work, then surgery may be offered.
The retina is a thin layer of tissue on the inside back wall of your eye that senses light and sends images to your brain. The macula is a small, but extremely important, area located at the centre of the retina and allows you to see fine details clearly. Retinal disorders affect this vital tissue. They include:
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) – a painless eye disease that damages the macula and affects central vision. There are two main types: dry and wet. Dry AMD is the most common and least serious type with vision loss being gradual. It develops when the cells of the macula become damaged by a build-up of deposits called drusen. Wet AMD is more serious and without treatment vision can deteriorate rapidly. It develops when abnormal blood vessels form underneath the macula and damage its cells. Medication and surgery are used to help wet AMD.
- Retinal detachment - when the thin lining at the back of your eye begins to pull away from the blood vessels that supply it. If this occurs it is a medical emergency. Most detached retinas can be reattached through surgery. There are a number of surgical options, depending on the individual.
- Retinal vein occlusion - occurs when a blockage forms in a retinal vein. A blocked vein may cause blood and other fluids to leak into the retina, resulting in bruising and swelling as well as lack of oxygen and a reduced vision. The blockage can be in the central or branch vein. A branch retinal vein occlusion (BRVO) usually results in blurred vision and gradually improves over time. A central retinal vein occlusion (CRVO) is more serious, and usually involves a more severe loss of vision. Treatment for retinal vein occlusions depends on the type and severity, and can include laser treatment, drug injections or a vitrectomy.
Other retina problems include: retinoblastoma (cancer of the retina), floaters (cobwebs or specks in your field of vision), diabetic eye disease, macular pucker (scar tissue on the macular) and macular hole (small break in the macula, usually happens in the over 60s).
Refractive error conditions
- Myopia - is short or near sightedness and makes it difficult to focus on objects in the distance. It occurs when the eyeball is longer than normal or the cornea is more curved than normal. Glasses, contact lenses or laser eye surgery will correct myopia vision.
- Hyperopia – is long or far sightedness and makes it difficult to focus on objects close up. It’s caused by: the eyeball being shorter than normal, the cornea being less curved than normal or the lens being thinner than normal. Glasses, contact lenses or laser eye surgery will correct hyperopia vision.
- Astigmatism – causes blurred vision at all distances. It’s a refractive error caused by an imperfection of the eye, usually in the cornea but sometimes in the lens when it becomes oval shaped rather than round. Glasses, contact lenses or laser surgery can correct this problem.
- Presbyopia – is age-related and causes difficulty when switching focus between distant and up-close objects. Bifocals or glasses that feature two focal lengths are often recommended or laser eye surgery.
Blepharoplasty is both a cosmetic and medical procedure to remove the saggy skin and to reposition the fat around the eye, both on the eyelid and below where eye bags form. A blepharoplasty can improve sight where saggy excess skin on your eyelid obstructs your vision.