Elder vision care: seeing eye-to-eye - Health - www.ElderCareLink.com
Home | Other Resources | Health | Elder vision care: seeing eye-to-eye

Elder vision care: seeing eye-to-eye

by Sue Lanza

As more baby boomers reach senior status, the incidence of vision problems and blindness are expected to double in size over the next twenty years. Discover what the most common vision impairments that you could experience as a senior are, and how you can reduce your risk.

Risk Factors For Vision Impairment

Vision problems are not always associated with age but studies have shown that individuals aged sixty and over have a greater chance of developing visual issues. Reports say that over twenty-one percent of those over sixty five have reported visual impairments. Some common vision diseases may also have a hereditary component with the conditions sometimes appearing in multiple generations.

Risk challenges for developing visual impairments that can be managed are more related to general health and lifestyle. Obesity, smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol can lead to multi-organ issues including heart disease or strokes.

Common Eye Disorders in Seniors

Three of the most frequently seen vision disorders in those persons over sixty are age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. Let's take a look at each.

Researchers estimate that between twenty-five and thirty million individuals worldwide are impacted by age-related macular degeneration. AMD is a chronic disease that causes gradual vision loss that creates blurriness, blind spots or wavy lines in the middle part of your sight. The condition affects the part of the eye called the macula, which is the area that helps you see detail. AMD is also one of the primary causes of blindness in the elderly.

The symptoms of age-related macular degeneration are painless and so subtle that the disease could develop unchecked for years without intervention. There are two forms of the disease: wet and dry, with both types showing changes to the macula area in the back of the eye.

The situation called dry age-related macular degeneration occurs when special light-sensitive cells within the macula area begin to breakdown, which slowly causes blurry vision in the center part of the visual field. Two early symptoms of AMD are difficulty seeing images clearly and the identification of yellow deposits under the retina called drusen. Dry AMD has three stages from early to advanced that can happen in one eye or both.

In wet or advanced age-related macular degeneration, blood vessels develop abnormally under the macula, leaking blood and causing vision damage quickly. A telltale sign of wet AMD would be when a person sees a straight line as wavy.

Over eighty five percent of all individuals with age-related macular degeneration have the dry form. A full comprehensive examination by an eye care professional is required to diagnose either type. Depending on the type and stage of AMD, some treatment options do exist.

Two other visual issues that are noted frequently in the elderly are glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. Glaucoma is a condition that results in visual loss on either side of the eye, blind spots and poor night sight. An increased pressure in the eye is responsible for this syndrome, which can develop gradually or appear suddenly. With either presentation, glaucoma is considered a medical emergency and requires immediate attention.

A complication of type 1 or type 2 diabetes that causes bleeding in the retina area of the eye is called diabetic retinopathy. The disease can be symptomless but usually starts as a result of unmanaged insulin levels over time. Sadly, both glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy can also be the foundation for future blindness.

Reducing Your Risk For Visual Problems

The best defense to warding off visual impairments is lifestyle and health modifications. Abolishing smoking, adopting good eating habits and doing regular exercise are simple ways to prevent health situations that lead to visual concerns.

Researchers have been discovering some interesting methods of potentially improving your visual risks that include:

  • Eating a few handfuls of any nuts each week could lessen the risk of blindness that is age-related by thirty-five percent. Walnuts were thought to decrease the risk by fifty percent.
  • Consuming one serving every week of fish is thought to reduce the signs of early age-related macular degeneration. The fatty acids in the fish may prevent the accumulation of plaque in the arteries and protect the eyes.
  • Using a high amount of olive oil and green leafy vegetables in food preparation saw a decrease in the development of AMD.
  • Increasing the lighting in your home won't improve your eyes but will make you less prone to falls and other accidents that could result from vision issues

Everyone connected with eye care for seniors agree on one thing - be sure to get tested regularly, even without symptoms, to prevent problems or catch them before it is too late. Be proactive even if you don't feel like taking the time for the eye exam. Your eyes will thank you by providing years more of dutiful service to you.