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Eye Essentials as You Age

  • Category: General Health
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Matt Gougler
Eye Essentials as You Age

While all of our senses are unquestionably important, our eyes truly are the windows to the world. In fact, our eyes are credited with delivering fully 80 percent of the information we process daily. Just think of all the activities you engage in from the moment you wake up until the moment your head hits the pillow, and you'll see what an integral role your eyes play every step of the way.

May is Healthy Vision Month, so ATRIO Health Plans is taking this opportunity to emphasize the importance – particularly for older adults – of taking steps to protect their windows to the world.

Common Aging Eye Conditions

As we age, our physical and cognitive abilities change. This is absolutely normal, so it's not surprising that as we get older, changes to vision occur, such as: needing glasses to see up close; having trouble adjusting to glare; experiencing difficulty identifying some colors; or requiring more light to see well.

Aging, however, can bring with it serious eye diseases and conditions, including:

  • Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) – AMD is a leading cause of vision loss among those age 50 and older as it damages the macula, a small spot near the center of the retina that's responsible for sharp, central vision. AMD can lead to a loss of vision in one or both eyes.
  • Cataract – Cataracts, which is a clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision, are common in older people. In fact, by age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery. A cataract can occur in one or both eyes, but the condition cannot spread from one eye to the other. Common cataract systems are: cloudy or blurry vision; colors appear faded; lights, such as headlights, seem overly bright; difficulty seeing at night; and double vision or multiple images in one eye.
  • Diabetic Retinopathy – People with type 1 or type 2 diabetes can develop diabetic retinopathy. Over time, high blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol can damage the tiny blood vessels in the eye's retina, causing them to become blocked. Consequently, new, weaker blood vessels may form. These changes signal the development of diabetic retinopathy.
  • Dry Eye – When the eye doesn't produce tears properly or tears evaporate too quickly, dry eye results. Dry eye sometimes can be treated effectively with over-the-counter artificial tears, but in some instances prescription eyedrops are needed. If these first-line treatments prove ineffective, consult your eye care professional to explore other options.
  • Low Vision – Those who have age-related eye disease are more likely to develop low vision. Low vision is diagnosed when even with the assistance of glasses, contact lenses, medication, or surgery, everyday tasks – from reading to shopping or cooking – prove very challenging. As the level of vision loss is permanent, work with your eye care professional to explore ways daily tasks can still be accomplished.

Dilated Eye Exams are Essential

The most crucial step that adults age 60 or older can take to maximize their eye health is to have a dilated eye exam at least every two years. However, for high-risk groups such as African Americans, these exams are recommended starting at age 40.

During this comprehensive exam, each eye is closely inspected for signs of common vision problems and eye diseases, many of which have no early warning signs. Early detection and treatment of many eye diseases can preserve those all-important windows to the world.