Why Are Eye Exams Important Anyways?
As we age, routine comprehensive eye exams by an optometrist or ophthalmologist (eye doctor) become increasingly important. After the age of 60, seniors have an increased likelihood of developing an eye disease that can cause permanent damage to their eyesight.
In fact, many eye diseases have few or no early symptoms and will develop painlessly and seniors may not even notice the changes to their vision right away.
The best way to prevent this is by keeping up with regularly scheduled eye exams and informing your doctor if you notice any changes to your vision. There are also some common eye diseases that seniors should know about, such as:
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye disease that affects the macula (the center of the light-sensitive retina at the back of the eye) and causes central vision loss, while peripheral (side) vision remains unaffected. The macula allows us to see fine detail and colors. Activities like reading, driving, watching TV, and recognizing faces all require good central vision.
- Cataracts are cloudy or opaque areas in the normally clear lens of the eye. Depending upon their size and location, they can interfere with normal vision. Usually cataracts develop in both eyes, but one may be worse than the other. Cataracts can cause blurry vision, decreased contrast sensitivity, dulling of colors, and increased sensitivity to glare.
- Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases characterized by damage to the optic nerve, resulting in vision loss. People with a family history of glaucoma and older adults have a higher risk. Glaucoma can be painless, with no symptoms. It can take away peripheral (side) vision.
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What Else Should I Know?
Now that you’ve learned a little more about why eye exams are so important to senior health, what can you expect when you get an exam? Well, during your exam your doctor will test your eye movement, depth perception, eye alignment, and visual acuity (sharpness). The doctor may also use special eye drops to dilate your pupils so that they can see inside your eye.
Be sure to bring a pair of sunglasses, or ask if they offer pairs at the office, if you know you’re pupils will be dilated as the drops can make you sensitive to light.
Your doctor may also be able to check for other eye conditions during your exam such as:
- Autoimmune disorders: If the eye is inflamed, this may be a sign of Lupus or another disorder.
- High cholesterol: The cornea may have a yellowish appearance or a yellow ring around it which can be a sign of high cholesterol. There also may be plaques in the blood vessels of the retina, which could indicate elevated cholesterol.
- Vitamin A Deficiency: If you're not getting enough fruits and veggies (from foods like sweet potatoes, greens, cantaloupe, and carrots), you may develop night blindness and vision loss. Your eye specialist will check the surface of your eye for damage. Mention if you're having trouble seeing at night.
- Multiple Sclerosis: Most eye tics are benign, but can also be an early indicator of neurological diseases like multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s. Your eye specialist can help with early diagnoses by checking for anomalies in your retina and optic nerve.
If you’d like to learn more about how eye exams can greatly benefit senior’s health, how our compassionate caregivers can help seniors do all the things they love while maintaining their independence, or if you would like to schedule your free in home consultation please, contact us online anytime or call us at (585) 204-6067.