As we get older, it’s perfectly normal to notice changes in our vision. Do you find yourself squinting a little more, needing more light or having trouble distinguishing colors? You’re not alone. Eye health may decrease over time, but knowing the signs between natural aging and potential health issues could be key to preventing and correcting age-related eye problems.
See what steps you and your loved ones can take to protect those peepers and achieve optimal eye health.
Age can sometimes weaken your vision and eyes, but not all eye problems are considered eye diseases. These conditions can usually be treated by making simple changes like adding brighter lights around the house or grabbing a pair of readers to reduce discomfort. Some common, age-related symptoms include:
Dry Eye. Older adults have a tendency to produce less tears, a condition known as dry eye. Dry eyes can be uncomfortable. It can cause itching, burning, or even some loss of vision. Depending on the severity, your ophthalmologist could recommend special eye drops to simulate real tears, adding a humidifier to your home or adding omega-3 fatty acids to your diet.
Presbyopia. It’s Greek for “old eyes.” Also known as farsightedness, presbyopia is the inability to see close objects or fine print. As people age, the lens on the eye becomes less flexible, making it more difficult for the eye to change its focus to see objects that are near. The good news? Corrective lenses can improve your vision.
Tearing. Oddly enough, one of the common causes of excessive tearing is dry eye. If the body senses the eyes are dry, it produces more tears. On the other hand, tearing could also come from a sensitivity to light, wind or temperature. To keep your eyes from tearing too much, experts recommend wearing sunglasses to keep out particles and protect from glare or using eye drops. In more serious cases, tearing could mean an eye infection or blocked tear duct. Talk to your eye doctor to determine the best form of treatment.
Spots, Floaters, and Flashes. The jelly-like substance that fills the middle of the eye (vitreous) can thicken or shrink with age. When it does, tiny clumps of gel can form and cause tiny spots (floaters) to float across the field of vision. Seeing occasional flashes of light is normal, and often a sign of aging. It takes place when the vitreous rubs or pulls on the retina. Although spots, floaters and flashes are considered harmless, a sudden increase of these occurrences should be discussed with your eye doctor immediately.
Common Vision Problems in the Elderly
According to the American Optometric Association, what affects the body also affects the eyes. And as we age, we may develop systemic health issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, or even heart disease. These conditions can seriously damage your vision, but knowing the warning signs can help with early detection and treatment. They are:
Cataracts. A cataract is a cloudy area in the lens of your eye. It keeps light from passing through the lens (at the front of the eye) to the retina (the back of the eye). It makes your vision blurry, hazy or less colorful. They tend to form slowly and painlessly. It’s so common that more than half of all Americans age 80 or older either have cataracts or have had surgery to remove cataracts.
Diabetic Retinopathy. This is a complication from diabetes. It is also the most common cause of vision loss for those with diabetes. It occurs when small blood vessels stop feeding the retina properly. In the early stages of the disorder, blood vessels may leak fluid causing blurred vision, floaters and difficulty seeing colors. Controlling blood sugar levels is a starting point for treatment.
Glaucoma. Glaucoma is considered a group of eye diseases characterized by damage to the optic nerve and results in loss of peripheral vision. It often affects both eyes. While there is not yet a cure for glaucoma, early diagnosis and continuing treatment can preserve eyesight.
Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD). Considered a leading cause of vision loss and blindness among adults ages 50 and older, AMD affects the macula, the back part of the retina that controls central vision. People with AMD can’t see people or things in front of them, but their peripheral vision remains intact.
How Can Vision Loss be Prevented?
Many eye diseases have no early symptoms. In fact, you might not even notice changes to your sight until the condition is quite advanced. So even if you or your loved ones haven’t noticed any problems with your vision, scheduling comprehensive dilated eye exams regularly with your ophthalmologist or optometrist can make all the difference.
Lifestyle choices also play a critical role in protecting your vision. To reduce the risk of developing eye conditions, you can try to:
Maintain a healthy weight.
Keep diabetes under control (if you have it).
Wear sunglasses or protective eyewear.
Eat a balanced diet that includes dark, leafy greens and fish high in omega-3 fatty acids.
Early treatment and key lifestyle choices are vital to preventing some common eye diseases from causing permanent vision loss or blindness.
Whether it’s preparing well-balanced meals, monitoring blood sugar levels, scheduling eye exams or participating and encouraging exercise routines, Presidio Home Care Aides know what it takes to achieve and maintain optimal eye health. Contact your local office today.