Eye Health Insights for Older Adults
Eye Health Insights for Older Adults
We all know that “the ‘eyes’ have it,” but during the aging process your vision may change and or weaken over time. For many, eyeglasses or contacts make reading a book, looking far into the distance, or seeing anything in between possible again. For others, laser surgery may be an option for clearer vision.
At Greystone Health, we know that sight is one of the key senses used to enjoy an active and fulfilling life. Whether you’re experiencing age-related sight loss or not, we want to help you do everything you can to keep your eyes as healthy as possible. Since August is National Eye Exam Month, we thought it was the perfect time to provide you with insights to help you identify eye-related issues, as well as ways to protect your vision for as long as possible.
First, we’ll provide a bird’s eye view into some of the more common eye problems that occur during the aging process. One of the most frequent issues, that generally tends to begin at around age 45, is having difficulty reading, especially smaller print. Known as Presbyopia the eyes are slowly losing their ability to focus on things that are close up. Presbyopia actually originates from a Greek word that literally means “old eye”. As this condition progresses, you may find yourself holding reading materials farther and farther away in an attempt to get some clarity, until your arms seem to be too short. Then, you may try to bring it closer for focus, but that doesn’t work either. By the time most people turn 60, they will need reading glasses at a minimum and are more likely to need bifocals or varifocals. In rare cases, surgery may be needed to correct this condition.
Another common complaint is floaters, the tiny specks or spots that float across the field of vision. Although they are generally harmless, you should visit an optician if they persist, as they could be an early indicator of an underlying health condition. Here is a glimpse at a few other common eye problems:
- Dry Eye, a condition where few or poor-quality tears are produced, which tends to be a common and often chronic problem, especially for older adults. Tears are necessary to maintain the front surface of the eye and provide clear vision.
- Cataracts are very common in adults over 60 and can be easily detected due to the gradual clouding of the eye’s lens. The good news is that oftentimes this can be remedied with a simple operation to restore sight.
- Glaucoma is caused by an increase in eye pressure that can lead to optic nerve damage. If left untreated, it can lead to tunnel vision and ultimately, blindness. However, if it is detected early enough, these complications can generally be averted with prescription eye drops. Other treatments include oral medications, laser treatment or surgery.
- Retinal Detachment occurs when the retina tears or separates from the underlying tissue. This issue tends to happen spontaneously, when there is trauma to the eye or head, due to health issues associated with advanced diabetes and inflammatory eye disorders. Immediate treatment is needed, or retinal detachment can cause permanent blindness.
- Age-Related Macular Degeneration is known as a disease of the retina due to aging where a person will lose central vision as well as the ability to see fine details, while peripheral vision remains the same. There are two types: a dry form and a wet form. The dry form is more common and has a slow progression over several years, while the wet form can cause significant vision loss in a few weeks but may be slowed with laser treatments.
- Diabetic Retinopathy is a condition that usually affects both eyes for people who have diabetes. This condition occurs due to progressive damage to the tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina, but when damaged leak blood and other fluids causing the tissue to swell and cloud vision. At its most severe, diabetic retinopathy can cause blindness.
Although you can’t stop your eyes from aging, you can take care of your eye health in order to slow down age-related damage. These helpful hints may catch your eye as simple ways you can preserve your vision and care for your eye health:
Get Your Annual Eye Exam – As a friendly reminder during National Eye Exam Month, starting at age 40 it’s important to get an annual eye exam, so that your eye doctor can ensure your eyes are in good health, while also looking for signs of glaucoma or retinal damage. Even if you aren’t currently noticing any vision problems, it’s still a good idea to have your eyes checked. For people with underlying health issues that are known to promote the risk of eye disorders, such as diabetes, as well as people with vision problems, your eye doctor may recommend more frequent screening intervals.
Wear Sunglasses – UV rays can cause cataracts and possibly even accelerate macular degeneration. Choose shades with UV filters that have 99% or higher UV block and wrap around your eye area for the most protection.
Don a Wide-Brimmed Hat – When you’re going to be out in the sun, wearing a wide-brimmed hat gives your eyes an extra level of protection.
Turn on a Light – When reading or working, make sure you shed some light on your focal point. When working in a dimly lit area, you’re more likely to promote eyestrain, which can cause headaches or eye fatigue.
Take a Break – If you’re working on a computer screen or reading any type of materials for long periods of time, make sure to give your eyes a break every 10 minutes or so. It’s as easy as looking up or looking away for at least 10 seconds to give your eyes a rest. As you watch television, give your eyes a break about every half hour or so.
Fit in Fruits and Vegetables – A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is known for its many health benefits. Yellow and orange fruits and vegetables, as well as dark green leafy vegetables tend to contain the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which may help lower the risk of eye conditions that are common in aging adults, such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. These foods include, but are not limited to broccoli, carrots, citrus fruits, corn, kale, peas, spinach and squash.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep – Your eyes are continuously lubricated while you sleep, which clears away dust or other irritants you may have been exposed to while you were awake. When you get enough sleep, your eyes and your body will be fully refreshed. However, insufficient sleep can leave your overtired and increase the likelihood of eyestrain.
As you get older, it is a normal part of life for your vision to change. However, by taking care of yourself and your eyes, you can likely reduce the impact of those changes. We hope these tips help you safeguard your vision and that you are able to see clearly in the days ahead.