Older Adults and Eye Health

As you age, you might notice that your vision changes and weakens. Perhaps you need eyeglasses to see far away or to read a book. Or maybe you have trouble adjusting to the sunlight or seeing different colors. All of these changes are a normal part of aging, and they alone should have no impact on your ability to continue to live a full life without experiencing severe or total vision loss. 

But as you continue to age, you are at a higher risk of developing certain age-related eye problems. If not detected and treated early, you might experience total or complete vision loss. According to the American Foundation for the Blind, an estimated 13.5% of Americans over the age of 65 experience vision loss. Many of these problems can be prevented or corrected if you take preventative measures. 

How To Prevent Eye Problems

There are a few steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing certain eye conditions as you age. 

  • Visit your doctor frequently to check for diseases, like diabetes, that can cause eye problems. 
  • See an ophthalmologist every year or two. A thorough eye exam is one of the most effective ways to reduce the chances of developing eye diseases. Most eye diseases can be treated if discovered early enough. The doctor should screen for glaucoma, in addition to testing your eyesight, glasses, and eye muscles. 
  • If you have diabetes or a family history of eye disease, you should get an eye exam with pupil dilation at least once every year. Call your doctor as soon as you experience a loss of vision, blurred vision, redness, double vision, eye pain, swelling of your eye or eyelid, or have fluids coming from the eye. 

Common Eye Conditions 

While these conditions tend to affect older adults, they can also affect people of any age. Here are four common age-related related eye conditions among older adults. 

Presbyopia is a condition when your eyes slowly lose the ability to see things in focus close up. This is a natural part of aging.  In fact, the word “presbyopia” comes from a Greek word which literally means “old eye.” 

As you grow older, the clear lens of your eye becomes less soft and flexible and has trouble focusing on objects that are closer up. As the condition develops, you might find yourself holding reading materials farther and farther away to be able to see them more clearly. While there is no way to reverse this normal aging process, it can be corrected with eyeglasses, contact lenses, or surgery. 

Cataracts is an increasingly common age-related disease. According to Health In Aging, about one in five adults over the age of 65 has cataracts. If you have cataracts, the lens becomes cloudy, and things look blurry and less colorful. You might also have blurry vision, see double, be extra sensitive to light, or having trouble seeing well at night. Colors might become more faded or turn yellow as well. 

Cataracts develop slowly. As the proteins in your eyes begin to break down, you might notice that your lens becomes cloudy but you may not experience vision problems for many years, especially if they start small. Once cataracts grows and becomes large and thick, you might experience severe vision problems. In this case, you might want to consider cataract-removal surgery, which is one of the most common and safest procedures. The surgeon will remove the clouded lens and put in a clear plastic lens. This procedure is highly effective; if the health of the eye is good, then vision should return to normal. 

Glaucoma affects 2.7 million Americans over the age of 40 and is a disease that damages the eye’s optic nerve. It is typically caused by fluid build-up in the front part of the eye, causing increased pressure and damaging the optic nerve. Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 60, but with early treatment, blindness can be prevented. Heredity is a significant risk factor, as well as age, race, diabetes, and some medications. It is less commonly caused by a blunt object or chemical injury, severe eye infection, inflammatory disorders of the eye, blockage of blood vessels, and rarely by corrective eye surgery. 

Most people suffering from glaucoma have no symptoms or pain. Glaucoma can only be detected by an eye doctor examining your eyes to observe the optic nerve, measure the eye pressure, and test the visual field. Treatments might be prescription eye drops, laser treatment, oral medications, or surgery. 

Age-related macular degeneration is when a part of the retina, called the macula, is damaged. When suffering from age-related macular degeneration (AMD), you lose your central vision and the ability to see fine details. However, the peripheral vision remains normal. AMD has become more common and is the leading cause of vision loss in people over 50. 

There are two types of AMD: dry AMD and wet AMD. Dry AMD is more common, and about 8 out of 10 people with AMD have the dry version. Parts of the macula become thin as you age, and drusen, or tiny clumps of protein, being to form. You will slowly begin to lose central vision, and there is no treatment. 

Wet AMD is the less common form, but it is much more serious. It occurs when new blood vessels grow under the retina and start to leak blood or other fluids, causing the macula to become scarred. Your vision loss is more severe and quicker with wet AMD than with dry AMD. Treatment plans include laser or injection of medication directly into the eye.  

How Low Vision Aids Can Help 

As people age and suffer from reduced vision, they might begin to rely on low-vision aids. Some of these aids include telescopic glasses, magnifying glasses, and lenses that filter life. These devices are more powerful than a typical pair of glasses and can significantly help people with eye conditions.

Other low vision aids might include electronic devices like e-books, iPads, or Kindles that allow you to put your reading material on to it. You can adjust the books for a larger, darker font which might help people with moderate sight impairments. 

Even if you do not currently suffer for an eye condition, you should still see your doctor and ophthalmologist every year to maintain your eye and overall health. Take extra care if you have a family history of eye disease to keep your eyes healthy as you age. 

Do you have a family member with vision loss or impairment or loss? SmithLife Healthcare is available 24/7 to assist with maintaining a desired quality of life.  Contact us today  or call 301-816-5020 to find out more.