Once you’re past 50, you may notice some of the common eye problems that affect seniors. At 40, you already made peace with needing a pair set of glasses to see up close up. That’s a normal part of aging. At 50, you’ll need more than just another pair of glasses. From this age, you should visit an eye care professional once a year for a comprehensive dilated eye exam. That’s because many eye diseases have no early warning signs or symptoms. Having a dilated exam means you’ll detect eye diseases in their early stages before vision loss occurs.
What is your eye specialist looking for? As you age, your risk for these diseases increases: age-related macular degeneration, cataract, diabetic eye disease, glaucoma, low vision and dry eye. This post will deal with the first three.
Three Common Eye Problems that Affect Seniors
Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
AMD damages the macula. The macula is a small spot near the center of the retina. You need this spot for sharp, central vision. AMD leads to a blurry area near the center of vision. You have trouble with reading, writing, driving. In some people, AMD can progress both slowly and quickly. It may lead to vision loss in one or both eyes. The Age-Related Eye Disease Study pointed out some risk factors.
- Age: The disease is most likely to occur after age 60.
- Race: Caucasians are more likely to get AMD than African-Americans or Hispanics/Latinos.
- Family history: People with a family history of AMD are at higher risk.
- Smoking: This doubles the risk of AMD.
The good news is that eating green leafy, vegetables and fish may help with AMD.
Cataracts are one of the most common eye problems in seniors. By age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery. What is a cataract? In a healthy eye, the lens is clear and flexible. The lens is made of mostly water and protein. As you age, some of the protein may clump together. This forms a cloudy area on the surface of the lens. In addition, the The clear lens slowly changes to a yellowish/brownish color. This adds a brownish tint to your vision. If you find that your vision is blurred, you have trouble seeing at night, and colors are no longer vivid, you may have cataracts.
The good news is that lens replacement surgery can restore your vision. During surgery, the surgeon will create a small incision in your eye to remove the natural lens and replace it with a new, artificial lens.
Diabetic Eye Disease
Diabetic eye disease is a complication of diabetes. The most common form of the disease is diabetic retinopathy. This happens when the tiny blood vessels inside the retina are damaged. They will either bleed or leak fluid. Often, there are no symptoms in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy. You won’t feel any pain or notice a loss of vision until the disease becomes severe. Diabetic retinopathy can lead to blindness.
The good news is that you can prevent this disease from progressing by having your eyes examined at least once a year.