The American Foundation for the Blind says that by 2030, the number of Americans who have significant age-related vision loss will likely double.
Multiple studies have shown that out of those who are legally blind (with vision of 20/200 or less), the majority are elderly.
They weren’t born with poor vision. Instead, they’ve suffered from age-related eye diseases.
Eye care becomes important as you get older. But reaching your later years with your eyesight intact also requires caring for your eyes right now.
In fact, according to the 2011 National Health Interview Survey, people between 45 and 64 are twice as likely to suffer some vision loss compared to younger populations.
Age-Related Eye Problems
Protecting yourself from age-related eye problems needs to begin as soon as you reach your 40’s. The earlier you can start an eye care regimen, the better.
In this post, we’ll discuss a few of the most common eye problems that you need to know about:
Cataracts are cloudy areas that appear in your eyes. Normally, your eyes are clear. But the development of these clouds can begin to interfere with your vision depending on where they are and how large there.
In most cases, cataracts develop in both eyes at once. Though, one eye may be noticeably worse than the other.
The result is usually blurry vision, low contrast sensitivity, sensitivity to glare, and a dullness in colors.
Glaucoma is not one disease but a group of diseases.
It’s known for causing damage to your optic nerve, which results in peripheral vision loss over time. Preventing Glaucoma is one of the biggest reasons why eye care is so important.
Glaucoma is most common in people who have a family history of the disease. But older adults have a greater chance of developing it.
Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
The macula is the found at the center of the retina. It is light-sensitive and located at the back of your eye.
AMD affects the macula, which directly impacts central vision.
Central vision is what allows you to see the fine details required to read, drive and even recognize your loved ones’ faces.
If macula suffers from degeneration, it results in a lack of central vision. Though, even as central vision decreases, there is little to no change to peripheral vision.
Diabetic retinopathy affects those with diabetes.
It occurs when you’ve experience progressive damage to those tiny blood vessels in the eye that provide nourishment to your retina.
The damaged vessels can leak blood (and other fluids) into the eye. This then causes your retinal tissues to swell. Swollen retinal tissues cloud your vision.
You’re most at risk for diabetic retinopathy when you’ve had diabetes for a longer period of time.
Risk grows when you’ve experience unstable glucose measurements for many years. Failing to manage your diabetes well impacts the severity of diabetic retinopathy.
The disease typically impacts both eyes. It typically clouds vision. But if it is allowed to progress, then it lead to blindness.
Dry eye can affect anyone. It occurs when you are unable to produce tears, or when your tears are of a poor quality.
Tears are not only a sign of emotion. They also clean the front surface of your eye and keep it healthy. They’re an important part of maintaining clear vision.
Dry eye doesn’t lead to blindness. But it can be a common chronic problem in older adults. Take preventing dry eyes into consideration when creating your eye care regimen.
Retinal attachment occurs when the retina is torn or separated from the eye.
The initial tear is typically spontaneous. It happens when there has been a change to the gel-like fluid that fills the back of the eye. Though, trauma to the eye can also cause retinal detachment.
Retinal detachment is also more likely when you health problems like advanced diabetes or an inflammatory eye disorder.
This is an eye care issue that requires immediate treatment. If you have the tell-tale signs of a detachment, see your opthamologist or doctor immediately.
Eye Health Problems: Warning Signs
Eye health problems can begin to develop from your early to mid-40’s.
This is the period in your life where it gets harder to complete tasks you found easy in your 20’s and 30’s. It’s the time to focus on your eye care.
Reading a screen and focusing on small details often become more difficult.
However, some of these changes are normal. In fact, your ability to focus your vision has been steadily declining since you were a child.
Losing focus has a name – presbyopia.
It happens because the lens inside of your eye grows less flexible over the years. It is this flexibility that allows you to look at something far away and then focus in on something right in front of your face.
You’re more likely to begin to experience the early stages of age-related eye problems. So, it’s important to be able to distinguish between normal aging and the early signs of progressive diseases.
What to Look Out For
If you experience frequent changes in your ability to see clearly, you might be experiencing a symptom of high blood pressure (hypertension) or diabetes.
Loss of Peripheral Vision
Losing peripheral vision is a tell-tale sign of glaucoma.
Remember, glaucoma often has no symptoms. Unfortunately, the first symptom is often vision loss.
If you begin to see images that are slightly or majorly distorted, you could be seeing signs of AMD (age-related macular degeneration), which impacts your central vision.
By distorted, we mean if a straight line begins to appear wavy. You might also see an empty space in the center of your field of vision.
Floaters and Flashes
Floaters or flashes are the shadows or floating particles that appear to be inside your eye.
Experiencing some floaters is simply a part of aging. However, if you notice the floaters becoming significantly worse over a short period of time and they are accompanied by flashes, you may have retinal detachment.
Having detachment treated immediately is essential to prevent a major or total loss of your vision.
Eye Care at Any Age: How to Start Now
It’s never too early to start thinking about eye care.
The preventative measures we just listed are essential if you know you have a family history of poor eyesight or you’re already in poor health.
But there are a few things everyone can do to promote eye health – no matter what stage you’re at in life.
Exercise is key to your overall health. But it is also important for eye health.
Regular exercise improves your circulation. Healthy blood circulation improves the level of oxygen sent to your eyes. It also aids in the removal of toxins.
It also has the ability to target specific eye diseases.
Some studies suggest that getting regular exercise has the potential reduce the risk of AMD by 70%.
Eat a Balanced Diet
Nutrition also plays a role in the aging process. And there are specific parts of nutrition that relate directly to eye care.
If you have a higher risk of cataracts, pay close attention to the amount of antioxidants you’re able to include in your diet.
Antioxidants have the potential to reduce your risk of cataracts. You can find these nutrients in a diet right of dark green and other colorful vegetables. They’re also available in fruit.
It may also be possible to ward off AMD with a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Fish are a great source of good fats.
Remember: diabetes, hypertension and heart disease play a significant role in many age-related eye diseases. So, protecting your general health and your overall health are one in the same.
Smoking is dangerous for your overall health. While most of us are aware of the risks to your cardiovascular health, there are also direct links to eye health.
Smokers have a far greater risk of developing cataracts, AMD, uveitis and other age-related eye problems.
Protect Your Eyes from UV Light
UV light can impact your risk of eye problems like cataracts and pinguecula.
Wear sunglasses when you’re outside during the daytime. Choose polarized or extra dark options if available.
Take a Break from the Screen
Screens are unavoidable in today’s world. But you can use them in a way that doesn’t damage your eyes.
Staring at the screen for too long can result in eyestrain, dry eyes, blurry vision, difficulty focusing, and headaches.
Protect your eyes when you need to use the computer for an extended period of time.
Check your prescription to make sure your glasses and contacts are up to date. Ask your doctor to ensure they’re good for using on the computer.
Adjust the screen so that the top of the screen is level with your eyes. Add an anti-glare accessory to the monitor and avoid glare that comes from the lights or windows.
Blink more to relieve dry eye.
Take a break at least every 20 minutes. Take 20 seconds and look 20 feet away. If you’re on the computer for more than 2 hours, then take a 15-minute rest period. Doing this is a crucial part of eye care.
Get Regular Eye Checkups
Keep an eye your eye health with a regularly scheduled comprehensive eye exam.
Aim to go in for a check up at least once every two years. After 50, make it an annual exam.
Regular checkups allow your opthamologist to assess your risk (or developing risk) for eye diseases. This is particularly important if you have diabetes or hypertension, which can both result in the development of major eye diseases.
Make sure to have your pupils dialated when you go in. Dilated eye exams allow the opthamologist to check for early signs of AMD, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma.
While you’re there, check that your prescription for glasses or contacts is up-to-date.
And don’t forget to tell your opthamologist if you’re currently on medication that has any side effects related to eye health.
Take Vitamins and Supplements
The Age-Related Eye Disease Studies, which are two major five-year clinical trials, suggest that supplements are valuable for anyone interested in eye care.
Participants in the study were chosen because they were in a pre-intermediate stage of AMD.
These two studies found that participants who took a daily antioxidant multivitamin reduced the risk of losing their vision due to advanced-stage AMD by 25%.
The supplement contained:
- vitamin C
According to the results of the AREDS and other studies, experts have been able to put together a must-have list for the ultimate eye care vitamin. It includes:
- 250-500 mg of vitamin C
- 400 IU of vitamin E
- 25-40 mg of zinc
- 2 mg of copper
- vitamin B complex (with 400 mcg folic acid)
- 2000 mg omega-3 fatty acids
Most multivitamins and eye care vitamins are generally safe. However, be sure that any supplement you take will not react badly any medications you are currently taking.
Also, check with your doctor before taking any supplements if you are pregnant or nursing.
Finally, it is important to remember vitamins and supplements aren’t a replacement for a healthy diet and lifestyle.
The best multivitamin in the world won’t help you if you’re eating a poor diet or are failing to exercise.
Your general health and your eye health are more connected than you may have known. That’s why it’s important to protect them both equally. And it’s even more important to start thinking about eye care now.
Common diseases like hypertension and diabetes directly affect the health of your eyes. Failing to manage them well makes it even harder to protect your vision. Indeed, it can even lead to vision loss as you get older.
Remember, your eyes are going change as you get older. They’ve been changing since you reached adulthood. Some things, like the ability to focus, will fade. And that’s normal.
But by caring for your eyes and being away of what could possible impact their health in the future, you have an opportunity to preserve your eyesight for as long as possible.
At Magruder Eye Institute, we’re dedicated to helping you maintain your eyesight today and tomorrow. In fact, we specialize in areas related to the most common age-related eye diseases.
Get yourself started on the path to long-term eye care. Fill out our appointment request form or give us a call to make your comprehensive eye exam today.