As we age, the effects are hardly limited to wrinkles and gray hair. Some common age-related vision changes are difficulties to see up close and increased adjustment time to fluctuating lights. Fortunately, these issues can often be easily addressed with teardrops, glasses, and improved lightings. Some other eye problems in aging adults, such as cataract and macular degeneration, might be more concerning and requires more supervision. Knowing what to anticipate and when to seek professional care can safeguard your vision.
Affecting one out of five elderly in America, cataracts are cloudy areas in the normally transparent lens of the eye. This clouding condition occurs when protein clusters, obscuring light transmission through the lens. While cataracts do not cause any pain, they can incite blurry vision, sensitivity to glare, fading of colors, and difficulties in seeing under low lights. When the cataract begins to affect vision, surgery is the only way to replace the cloudy lens with a new one.
Age-related macular degeneration impacts the macula and can diminish one’s central vision dramatically. Macula, the center of the light-sensitive retina, allows us to see colors and fine details. Without the ability of focused central vision, activities such as driving, watching TV, reading, or even recognizing faces can be affected. There are usually no obvious symptoms in the early stages of macular degeneration. However, the central vision will eventually become blurry and in rare cases, completely disappear in advanced stages. There is no cure for macular degeneration yet, but there are some treatments that can slow down its progression.
One of the leading causes of blindness in the United States, glaucoma is characterized by optic nerve damage caused by elevated pressure within the eye. Typically affecting the peripheral vision of one eye before the other, glaucoma is usually asymptomatic until there is a significant side vision loss. Medicated eye drop or oral pills are generally used to treat glaucoma. However, when the increased eye pressure cannot be controlled successfully by medications, surgeries such as trabeculoplasty or trabeculectomy might be necessary.
Diabetic retinopathy is a potentially blinding complication of diabetes. Diabetes causes abnormal changes to the blood vessels that nourish our retina, causing them to break, bleed and heal where they should not. This condition affects both eyes and can worsen when the glucose measurements are unstable. Diabetic retinopathy symptoms include blurred or distorted eyesight, partial vision loss, pain in the eye, and blindness. Managing your blood sugar levels is the best way to prevent diabetic retinopathy. Laser treatment or vitrectomy surgery may be recommended to improve vision if the retina is not severely damaged.
You might be surprised, dry eye is one of the most prevalent elderly ocular diseases in the world. It is a multi-factorial chronic condition of tears and ocular surface. The elderly with dry eye syndrome may experience visual disturbance, discomfort, and tear film instability. The artificial teardrop is the most common relief for dry eyes. If over-the-counter teardrops are not effective enough, optometrists may perform tear duct blocking procedures so that natural tears can stay in the eyes longer.
Many eye problems may develop painlessly without any early symptoms, and you may not notice the vision changes until the condition is advanced. Thus it is important to keep up with annual eye examinations and adopt wise lifestyle choices so that you or your loved ones can appreciate the beautiful things as long as possible.