Here’s some good news: With the average life expectancy in the United States increasing by almost 10 years over the past half-century, more of us are living longer. As a result, however, age-related health problems are also on the rise, including eye diseases that lead to poor vision.
Most people see their vision diminish as they age. But certain age-related eye diseases are particularly troubling because they can eventually lead to severe visual impairment or blindness. To make matters worse, diseases that steal vision like glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy are now on the increase, threatening the eyesight of millions of older people.
This threat is collectively known as low vision, a loss of visual acuity that is often permanent and difficult to overcome. Fortunately, however, most illnesses that lead to low vision develop gradually and often show detectable signs along the way. So you are more likely to have healthier vision if you take steps to treat early eye disease.
Dr Kimberly Burrage, a certified therapeutic optometrist at the Hattiesburg Eye Clinic, said the best way to do this is to have a basic eye exam at age 40 and then continue with annual exams from that point on.
“There are certain ‘silent’ symptoms associated with many eye conditions that are not always apparent to a patient,” said Dr. Burrage, who specializes in the diagnosis and management of eye disease. “But they can often be detected by an ophthalmologist through a standard eye exam.”
Dr Burrage also said that some adults may need to take this test earlier. âIf you already have vision problems, have a metabolic disease like diabetes or high blood pressure, or have a family history of eye disease, you definitely shouldn’t wait until middle age to start. annual eye exams. “
As you get older, you may also notice signs that your vision is not what it used to be. The most common of these is a condition known as presbyopia in which a person has difficulty focusing on nearby objects, especially while reading.
âPresbyopia occurs because the eye muscles that control the lens start to lose flexibility as we age,â said Dr. Burrage. âIt reduces the lens’s ability to adjust its focus, which can particularly interfere with near vision. Most patients turn to aids like reading glasses, progressive or bifocal lenses, or special contact lenses to help them see nearby objects better.
Difficulty seeing up close is just one of the many signs of reduced vision that can accompany aging. You should also see an eye doctor if you notice such things as:
â¢ Difficulty seeing at night;
â¢ Blurred vision;
â¢ A halo effect around bright lights;
â¢ Sudden flashes of light;
â¢ Red and watery eyes;
â¢ Double vision
Even so, annual eye exams starting in middle age are the surest way to spot eye disease that could potentially cause you to lose sight. These exams can become the starting point for a variety of treatment options that could help you effectively manage an eye disease or condition.
For example, if an ophthalmologist detects high fluid pressure in the eye – the onset of glaucoma – there are now a number of treatment options to reduce the pressure, ranging from daily drops to minimally invasive surgeries. , which help a patient avoid permanent damage to the retina. There are ranges of similar options for many other debilitating eye conditions.
The goal in many cases is to manage the disease so that you can maintain as much vision as possible. Dr Burrage also said that there are things you can do to help improve your overall vision or to deal with low vision better, if it occurs.
Improve the contrast.
âA hallmark of low vision is a reduced ability to differentiate hues and shades of color,â said Dr. Burrage. You can make things easier to see if they are placed against backgrounds with contrasting color, such as dark place mats under white porcelain or a dark rug on a beige floor.
Increase lighting. Dr Burrage recommends better lighting in dimly lit areas to reduce the risk of falling or tripping, hazards that affect three million older people each year. So consider adding additional lighting in stairs or hallways, or outside along walkways or garden paths.
Scattered objects can make it difficult for a visually impaired person to move around their home or find the things they need. âYou can make your life easier if you make sure everything in your house is out of place and out of the way,â Dr. Burrage said.
The âinternet of thingsâ allows you to manage many aspects of your home with a computer, smartphone or virtual assistant like Siri, Alexa or Google Home. With these devices, you can control thermostats (which can be difficult to read), lock doors, or turn lights on or off without having to physically do so.
Adopt healthy habits.
A healthy lifestyle can protect and improve your eyesight. Make sure you exercise, maintain healthy blood pressure, and control your cholesterol. Stop smoking if you smoke. And be sure to eat whole foods that are “user friendly” high in vitamin C (oranges and tomatoes), vitamin E (almonds, sunflower seeds, and avocados), and lutein (dark leafy greens, mangoes, and peaches).
The possibility of a disease causing low vision is something you should take seriously as you get older. But there are things you and your eye doctor can do to avoid this risk – and the sooner you pursue them, the less damage your eyesight will suffer.
If you would like to learn more about the eye health of the elderly, visit our webpage. For more information on how the Hattiesburg Eye Clinic can help you improve your overall vision health, call 601-268-5910, 800-624-8254 or schedule a consultation with us online.