Common Eye Problems in Aging Adults & Risk Reduction Tips
Like all of our primary senses, we tend to take our vision for granted. It helps us navigate everyday life, from the moment we wake up to the time we go to sleep – and yet, how often do we really stop to think about the biological processes involved, or even the possibility that our eyes might fail us? For many aging adults, the concern of failing eyesight is quite real.
Past the age of 60, a number of eye diseases can begin to develop, a majority of which have the potential to permanently damage one’s vision. What’s more, the symptoms associated with these diseases often do not manifest until later in the development cycle. So, while one’s vision may seem completely normal, there may be problems brewing. Here are the four eye diseases seniors should be aware of:
- Glaucoma: Technically a group of eye diseases, glaucoma is the result of pressure buildup inside the eye, which ultimately damages the eye’s optic nerve. As glaucoma progresses, one may experience his or her peripheral vision to weaken. Prior to that, however, there are no initial symptoms. In fact, it’s estimated that nearly 1 million people have glaucoma but are unaware.
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD): Although it rarely results in blindness, AMD deteriorates one’s central vision because of damage to part of the retina called the macula. With this central or “straight ahead” vision affected, activities such as driving or reading become challenging.
- Cataracts: Defined as the clumping of proteins within the lens of the eye, a cataract causes cloudy or opaque vision. Those who have had vision affected by cataracts must have surgery to remove the cloudy lens and replace it with a new one.
- Diabetic retinopathy: This is a complication of diabetes, wherein blood vessels in the eyes burst and bleed, eventually detaching the retina. Those with diabetic retinopathy experience shadows or dark objects that float within their field of vision. While there is no cure, laser treatment is often effective in preventing blindness before the retina becomes too damaged.
Risk Reduction: What Seniors Can Do
Like all of our organs, eyes are not immune to the process of aging. A gradual decrease in vision may be normal as we age, but it’s not uncommon for seniors to have excellent vision. Encourage your aging loved ones to take the following steps to ensure their eyesight remains sharp late into life:
- Schedule a comprehensive eye exam annually (at a minimum), to check for:
- Visual acuity (measuring sight at varying distances)
- Pupil dilation (widening the pupil using drops, to determine signs of disease)
- Tonometry (measuring fluid pressure within the eyes)
- Protect eyes from ultraviolet light. If going outside when it’s sunny, be sure to wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
- Don’t smoke, or take steps to quit. The chances of developing many of the aforementioned eye diseases increase dramatically if you smoke.
- Exercise regularly and follow a healthy diet (with physician’s approval), with foods high in antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins A and C, and magnesium. Pay close attention to sugar intake especially, as studies indicate sugar has a significant impact on eye disease formation. Always check with your physician before making any dietary changes.
- Notify your optometrist immediately if you notice any changes in vision.
Comfort Keepers® Can Help
The compassionate, professional caregivers of Comfort Keepers can help your aging loved ones live comfortably at home, even if they struggle with their vision. They can provide mobility assistance, meal preparation, and help with areas of daily living. Additionally, caregivers will drive loved ones to scheduled optometrist appointments and other places in town. Contact your local Comfort Keepers today to learn more about how in-home care can help your loved ones.
American Optometric Association. “Adult Vision: Over 60 Years of Age.” Web. 2017.
Natural Eye Care. “Eye Care for Seniors: Problems More Common With Aging.” Web. 2017.
AgingCare.com. “Warning Signs of Senior Eye Disease” by James M. Maisel, M.D. Web. 2017.
AgingCare.com. “The 4 Most Common Age-Related Eye Diseases” by Marlo Sollitto. Web. 2017.