Age related eye diseases and conditions start to arise when you reach your 40’s. If you are getting older, you may have noticed that your vision is changing. It is possible you need glasses to see up close, or you have trouble distinguishing colors or adjusting to glare. Changes are a part of normal aging, but these changes cannot stop you from living an active life or from enjoying your independence. Most people can live an active life well into their old age without ever experiencing severe vision loss.But as you age, the age-related eye diseases and conditions are more likely to arise. These include: age-related macular degeneration, diabetic eye disease, cataract, glaucoma, low vision and dry eye.
Comprehensive dilated eye exams are recommended for everyone over 50. The key elements of a comprehensive eye exam include dilation, tonometry, visual field test and a visual acuity test. For the dilation test, your eye care professional will administer drops placed in each eye, enabling the physician to view the inside of the eye. Once dilated, the eyes are examined using a special magnifying lens that provides a clear view of important tissues at the back of the eye, such as the retina, the macula, and the optic nerve.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye disease associated with aging. It gradually destroys sharp, central vision. Common tasks such as reading and driving are associated with healthy central vision, as is the ability to see objects clearly. AMD itself does not lead to blindness, but the loss of central vision can interfere with simple everyday activities, such as the ability to read, see faces, or do close work, such as fixing things around the house or cooking. See your ophthalmologist for AMD testing.
A cataract is a clouding of the eye lens that affects vision. Aging is responsible for most cataracts, which are common in older people. The lens is the clear part of the eye and helps to focus an image, or light, on the retina. The retina is light-sensitive tissue located at the back of the eye. Light passes through the transparent lens to the retina in the normal eye. The light is then changed into nerve signals that are sent to the brain. The lens must be clear for a sharp image on the retina. If a cataract is present, the image you see will be blurred.
The lens is made up of protein and water. The proteins are arranged in a specific manner to keep the lens clear. But as we age, some of the protein clumps together and starts to cloud more of the lens, making it more difficult to see. Symptoms of a cataract are:
- Blurry or cloudy vision.
- Glare. Lamps, headlights, or sunlight may appear too bright, or a halo may appear around lights.
- Double vision or multiple images in one eye.
- Poor night vision.
- Frequent prescription changes for your eyeglasses.
- Colors seem faded.
Like other age-related eye conditions, cataracts can be detected through a comprehensive eye exam mentioned above.
Diabetic retinopathy is the most common eye disease in American adults and is also a leading cause of blindness in that same age group. Changes in the blood vessels of the retina cause this disease. In some people, abnormal new blood vessels grow in the surface of the retina. Diabetic retinopathy can be the cause of blood vessels leaking fluid and swelling. The retina in its healthy form is necessary for good vision. Diabetic eye conditions encompass a group of eye diseases that affect people with diabetes. These disorders include diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, cataract, and glaucoma.
Controlling diabetes – by staying physically active and by taking medications as prescribed, and maintaining a healthy diet – can all prevent or delay vision loss. Early detection can prevent vision loss, so that people with diabetes should get their vision checked every year.
Glaucoma refers to a group of diseases that can damage the optic nerve of the eye. It results in vision loss and blindness. Glaucoma is one of the main causes of blindness in the U.S. With early treatment, you can protect your eyes against serious vision loss. It is therefore very important that you be examined by an ophthalmologist every one to two years.
Medicare covers a comprehensive annual eye exam for some people at higher risk for glaucoma. People with diabetes, those with a family history of glaucoma, African Americans age 50 and older, and Hispanic/Latinos age 65 and older, are all in higher risk groups. Remember that lowering eye pressure in the early stages of glaucoma slows progression of the condition and helps save vision.
This condition occurs when the eye does not produce tears properly, or when the tears are of the wrong consistency and evaporate quickly. There are many factors that can contribute to dry eye. They include the following:
- Advancing age causes a reduction in tear production.
- Medications like antihistamines, antidepressants, decongestants, hormone replacement therapy, birth control pills, anti-anxiety medications, Parkinson’s disease, and high blood pressure have all been associated with dry eye syndrome.
- Autoimmune disorders such as Sjogren’s syndrome, scleroderma, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and vitamin A deficiency can all cause dry eye.
- Women are more likely to develop dry eye.
- Seasonal allergies can cause dry eye.
- Prolonged periods in front of a computer screen can cause dry eye
Dry eye is diagnosed and treated by a number of methods. See your ophthalmologist today if you have symptoms of dry eye.
Low vision means that even with eyeglasses, contact lens and other solutions, people may find everyday tasks difficult to complete. Reading the mail, cooking, shopping, all can seem to be challenging. Many people with low vision are taking charge by working with their physicians to maintain their independence and quality of life. Talk to your physician today if you suffer from low vision. Solutions can be found to increase your quality of life.