Why Are Eye Exams Important For Seniors?
As we age, regular eye exams become an increasingly important part of our health care. After turning 60 there is an increased likelihood that you or your loved one will develop an eye disease that may permanently affect your, or their, vision. The way to prevent this is by routinely seeing an optometrist or ophthalmologist (eye doctor) for a comprehensive dilated eye exam.
Many eye diseases will develop painlessly over time, have few or no early warning signs, and you may not even notice changes to your vision until the disease has progressed!
For this reason it is important to be aware of any changes to your vision as well as, some of the most common eye diseases that affect seniors. Here are a few:
- Retinal detachment is a tearing or separation of the retina from the underlying tissue, and most often occurs spontaneously due to changes to the gel-like vitreous fluid that fills the back of the eye. Other causes include trauma to the eye or head, health problems like advanced diabetes, and inflammatory eye disorders. If not treated promptly, it can cause permanent vision loss.
- 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.
- Dry eye is a condition in which a person produces too few or poor-quality tears. Tears maintain the health of the front surface of the eye and provide clear vision. Dry eye is a common and often chronic problem, particularly in seniors.
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What Happens During The Exam?
Now that you’ve schedule your eye exam, what should you expect? During your eye exam, your doctor will test your depth perception, eye alignment, visual acuity (sharpness), and your eye movement. They will also use special eye drops to dilate your pupils (make them larger) so that they can see the inside your your eyes.
If you know your doctor will be dilating your pupils, bring a pair of sunglasses with you as you may be sensitive to light for a few hours after.
Your doctor may also be able to diagnose other health complications, including but not limited to:
- Diabetes: Diabetes affects the small capillaries in the eye’s retina. These blood vessels may leak blood or a yellowish fluid, which may be discovered in an eye exam. If your eye specialist notices this, you may have a condition called diabetic retinopathy.
- 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.
- Tumors: You will be checked for blurry vision, improper pupil dilation (one eye dilating more than the other or remaining fixed), and optic nerve color. If something seems irregular, you may be referred to a neurologist.
- 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.
If you’d like to learn more about how eye exams can help safeguard your health, how our caregivers can assist those with vision impairments, or if you would like to schedule your free in home consultation please, contact us online today or call us at (336) 252-4429.