There’s no avoiding the effects of aging. Things like stiff joints, weaker muscles, and worsening vision from common age-related eye diseases can quickly become daily struggles. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still preserve, improve and enjoy the quality of your life.
Aging requires you to take a proactive stance when it comes to your health. And that same approach is necessary if you want to maintain your vision.
Optometrists recommend that adults should schedule eye exams every year. Your eyes, like your other organs, weaken over time and become increasingly susceptible to common age-related diseases. A visit to your Optometrist can help you identify vision problems before they worsen.
Whether you have a family history or want to stay on top of your health, you should familiarize yourself with these age-related eye diseases.
1. Cataracts (Cloudy Eyes)
Our eyes rely on a lens to focus light. This process is what lets us see. But as we age – our lenses can become cloudy, making it difficult for our eyes to gather light and see clearly.
This cloudiness is known as a cataract. Cataracts are a normal part of aging, and they are easily detectable. Your Optometrist may recommend specialized cataract surgery if they become too serious and are affecting your quality of life.
How does cataract surgery work?
- A patient receives local anesthesia
- Your surgeon makes a small incision in the front of your eye
- The cloudy lens is removed and replaced with a clear plastic lens (intraocular lens)
Cataract surgery is a safe surgery that millions of seniors receive every year. We highly recommend you visit your Optometrist if your vision is cloudy or you suspect that you have cataracts.
2. Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
Age-related macular degeneration (also known as Aging Eye) is the leading cause of vision loss among seniors. This age-related eye disease damages the macula (an internal part of your retina), which is essential for helping your eye maintain focus on objects that are straight ahead.
Macular degeneration doesn’t always cause blindness, but it will reduce your vision quality.
You can reduce your chances of macular degeneration by maintaining a healthy lifestyle that includes:
- No smoking
- Eating a healthy diet that’s rich with greens and fish
- Regular exercise
- Keeping your blood pressure low
- Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels
Treating macular degeneration is difficult, but certain treatments can slow its progression. Researchers at the National Eye Institute conducted a series of Age-Related Eye Disease Studies (AREDS and AREDS2) to test whether this age-related eye disease is preventable. The results of their research revealed that there are many supplements that can help reduce the progression of AMD, including vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, zinc, and copper, lutein, zeaxanthin, meso-zeaxanthin and omega-three fatty acids. You can find these over-the-counter dietary supplements clearly marked with AREDS and AREDS2 in your local pharmacy.
Other forms of treatment for macular degeneration include:
- Photodynamic therapy
- Laser surgery
You should schedule an appointment with your Optometrist to see if you’re at risk of AMD.
3. Glaucoma (Damaged Optic Nerve)
Glaucoma is a debilitating eye disease that’s treatable if detected early enough. However, if left untreated, it can result in total vision loss.
Glaucoma occurs when the optic nerve in your eye is damaged, usually by a buildup of fluid or pressure in the eye. This disease is one of the most common age-related eye diseases. There are several types of glaucoma, which include:
- Open-angle – open drainage from the cornea to iris and blocked trabecular meshwork causes pressure that can damage the optic nerve
- Angle-closure – blocked drainage from the cornea to iris leads to increased pressure
- Normal-tension – a form of the disease where damage to the optic nerve occurs even if your eye pressure is within a normal range
- Pigmentary – caused when pigment granules from the iris clog your drainage
Vision loss due to glaucoma is irreversible. Do you have a family history of this eye disease? We recommend that you meet with your Optometrist regularly to see if you are at risk. Glaucoma is treatable through lifestyle changes, eye drops, medication, and surgery.
4. Diabetic Eye Disease
Diabetes is something that many Americans develop due to genetics or poor eating habits. This disease can impact your vision too.
So how does diabetes affect your vision?
Diabetes causes your blood vessels to leak, which is problematic for the layer of blood vessels in your retina. Blood secretion in the retina can cause damage, blurry vision, and even total vision loss when blood vessels bleed and are replaced with new ones.
Because of the way that diabetes affects the eyes, an eye exam is very often the first time someone will be told that they may have diabetes. Eye exams can reveal other general health problems, too, which is an excellent reason to get an eye exam every year.
Diabetes is a preventable disease in most cases. Preventing diabetes usually requires an individual to make lifestyle changes. The easiest ways to prevent this disease include:
- Limiting the number of carbohydrates you eat
- Exercising regularly
- Not smoking or drinking
Consult with your family doctor to see whether you’re at risk. If you are, you should also meet with your Optometrist at least once a year.
5. Low Vision
Low vision is defined as vision that is worse than 20/70. This disease is often the result of many of the age-related eye diseases mentioned earlier. Individuals with low vision will find it increasingly difficult to see because prescription glasses, contact lenses, and medications aren’t always effective.
An individual with low vision will have poor (or a complete lack of) peripheral vision.
That’s why you must diagnose and treat these eye diseases before they lead to low vision or total vision loss. Low vision will greatly impact your ability to enjoy your life – which is challenging when you’ve spent your entire life working and are now unable to enjoy your retirement.
Age-Related Eye Diseases Are Treatable If Caught Early Enough
Don’t let your quality of life suffer because of degrading vision quality. Schedule regular appointments with your Optometrist to stay on top of your eye health.
Common eye diseases like glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic eye disease are treatable if detected early enough. Dr. Barry Leonard & Associates works with seniors to help them diagnose and correct vision problems.