3 Eye Emergencies You Should Know About
There are many things that can go emergently wrong with the eyes, and these can signal either vision or life threatening conditions.
Our eye doctors are always available to see you and deal with your eye problems. Though there are many possibilities, this article will explain a few especially important examples.
Vision Loss and Retinal Detachments
The retina is the neurosensory and photosensitive tissue at the back of the eye that is responsible for transmitting light into signals that can be sent to the brain for visual processing.
A retinal detachment is when these layers of cells are pulled away from the underlying tissue that is responsible for their nourishment, the choroid.
Detachment causes death of many of the cells that are responsible for vision, especially if it is not quickly treated.
It can affect the outer retina and take away peripheral vision, but can also occur where it affects one’s central vision.
In either case, it must be surgically repaired within days of onset. If it threatens central vision, it needs to be repaired as soon as possible, often on the day of onset.
Retinal detachment can be caused by genetic factors that lead to a thin retina in certain areas, high nearsightedness, severe diabetic retinopathy, trauma, natural aging changes, and many other conditions.
Eye Emergencies: Acute Angle Closure Glaucoma
The front part of the eye between the natural lens in the middle and the clear cornea at the very front is filled with a watery substance called aqueous humour that is responsible for maintaining healthy eye pressure and nourishing many tissues in this area.
It is produced by the ciliary body, near the lens, and is drained from the eye at the angle, which is the corner between the iris and cornea.
Sometimes, the angle can become blocked or damaged, restricting outflow and leading to a sudden and intense increase in the intraocular pressure of the aqueous humour.
This can occur because of underlying anatomy, where some people are more prone to angle closure than others because they have narrower angles where aqueous humour can drain out from.
Cataracts can lead to narrow angles, and conditions like proliferative diabetic retinopathy can lead to blood vessels growing in the angle and restricting outflow. Trauma can also damage this area and lead to reduced outflow.
When pressure in the eye gets very high, the result is damage to several structures – from the cornea to the lens, retina, and optic nerve – and there is a risk of permanent vision loss.
If you are experiencing angle closure, you might have an extremely painful eye and headache along with nausea, fluctuating vision, a red eye, and a half-dilated pupil.
Treatment for angle closure focuses on first rapidly decreasing the pressure with oral and eye drop medications. After the pressure is stabilized, the underlying cause can be dealt with in the following days.
A Third Nerve Palsy May Be a True Life or Death Emergency
The nerves that control the eyes come from the bottom-back of the brain and proceed forward to innervate various muscles. These nerves are in turn fed by various blood vessels, and cross near other structures.
When the third cranial nerve is damaged in some way, it manifests with the eye dropping down and out with the eyelid drooping to cover most of the affected eye. The pupil may also be affected, becoming very dilated or large and unresponsive to light.
This nerve palsy can be caused by microvascular damage to the blood vessels that supply the third nerve, in diabetes or high blood pressure, or it can result from an aneurysm, which is a bulged and thinned blood vessel in the brain.
While both are worrisome, the aneurysm is a life threatening emergency requiring immediate hospitalization, because if the blood vessel bursts it can cause massive bleeding and damage by resulting in a hemorrhagic stroke.
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