Preventing and Treating Vision Loss in the Elderly
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there are 61 million adults that are at a high risk for vision loss in the United States. Fortunately, early detection and treatment of age-related eye problems can help to prolong a parent or senior loved one’s independence and quality of life.
Learn more about how early prevention can help treat vision loss in the elderly.
Age-Related Vision Loss
The CDC estimates that there are 61 million adults at a high risk for vision loss, but only half of these adults have seen an eye doctor in the last 12 months.
It is normal in our 40s to notice that our vision is changing or that our eyes don’t quite work like they used to. These are normal parts of aging that you can easily adapt to.
However, according to the National Eye Institute, there are certain eye diseases that can put you at risk for more permanent and severe vision loss, including:
1. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
AMD affects the middle of our vision, causing:
- A blurry, dark patch directly in our line of sight
- An overall foggy appearance to what is seen
- What appears to be waves in straight objects
At the front of the eyeball is a clear lens and cataracts occur when this lens becomes cloudy. Usually, the symptoms are gradual, but individuals with cataracts will notice:
- Bright lights needed to be able to see
- Difficulty with night driving
- Overall blurry vision
- Trouble recognizing colors
3. Diabetic eye disease.
Poorly controlled diabetes can cause a form of blindness called diabetic retinopathy. What happens is that the tiny blood vessels at the back of the eye can rupture. This can lead to dark patches or areas of vision that are gone.
4. Dry eyes.
As we age, our tear glands often produce fewer tears, creating dry eyes. Dry eyes in themselves are not harmful but the eye can become irritated and scratched if there is not enough moisture to wash out anything that gets in the eye.
At the back of the eye, the optic nerve connects to our brains. Glaucoma is when there is unusually high pressure on this nerve. The pressure can then break down the nerve leading to blind spots.
How to Prevent Vision Loss
The signs and symptoms of age-related vision loss may not be noticeable at first. You can have an eye disease for years before the symptoms become obvious. The method of preventing long-term damage or vision loss is to have regular eye exams by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.
The National Eye Institute recommends that everyone over the age of 50 have a comprehensive dilated eye exam. The eye care professional will use drops to dilate or widen pupils. They can then look into the eye through the pupil and check for any signs of disease. The National Institute on Aging states this is the only way to find eye disease before it causes problems.
You can also keep eyes healthy by:
- Avoiding smoking
- Eating a nutrition rich diet
- Wearing protective sunglasses when outdoors
How to Treat Vision Loss in the Elderly
If an eye doctor notices signs of eye disease, they will recommend a plan of action.
Depending on the condition, a parent or senior loved one might be:
- Able to discuss laser eye surgery.
- Offered a surgery consultation.
- Prescribed eye drops.
- Prescribed new glasses.
- Recommended changes to a diet.
- Scheduled for regular follow up.
It is normal for your vision to change as you age, but remember that losing your vision is not normal. Taking steps to safeguard your sight is a vital step to continue to enjoy an active and independent life.
What has been your experience with changes to your vision or that of an aging loved one? What tips do you have for keeping your eyes healthy as you age? We would love to hear your questions and comments in the space below!
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