Growing older can mean a lot of things – more time with grandchildren and family, activities such as golf, biking, or yoga, traveling, a new hobby, and finally getting into that book you have been meaning to read. Your eyesight is key to enjoying all these things and having a full and active lifestyle. As you age, you may experience changes in your vision such as cataracts, dry eye, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and presbyopia, among others. While these eye health conditions are not limited to older people, we see a higher rate of these disorders as people age. Below is a list of the most common conditions, how to determine if you may be suffering from them, and how these conditions can be treated.
Presbyopia. Presbyopia refers to the loss of the ability to see small print or objects that are close, and usually develops slowly over your lifetime. Symptoms of presbyopia include:
- Difficulty seeing things that are close to you;
- Eye strain and/or headaches;
- Needing to hold reading materials farther from you to focus on them.
- Use brighter reading lights;
- Use reading glasses;
- See your optometrist for multifocal lenses;
- Laser surgery.
Dry Eye. Dry eye happens when tear glands do not make enough tears to keep your eyes moist or the tears are of poor quality. Indications of dry eye:
- Burning, itching, or watery eyes
- Blurry vision
- Scratchiness, or the feeling that there is something in your eye
- Sensitivity to light.
- Over-the-counter eyedrops
- Using a humidifier in your home;
- In more severe cases, see your optometrist for the following treatments:
- Prescription eye drops;
- Punctal plugs, which plug the tear ducts to help your eyes retain more moisture;
- Lipiflow, a procedure which can help unclog glands that may be exacerbating your dry eye symptoms.
Cataracts. Cataracts are cloudy areas in the lens of your eye causing your vision to be less sharp. Indications include:
- Blurry or cloudy vision;
- Colors look faded;
- You see a halo around lights;
- Difficulty seeing at night.
Surgery is the only treatment for cataracts; however, if your cataracts have not progressed that far, you can try the following:
- See your optometrist for a new contact lens or eyeglasses prescription;
- Wear anti-glare, wrap-around sunglasses;
- Use brighter lights in your home or work environment.
Glaucoma. The most common form is open-angle glaucoma and scientists believe it is caused by increased pressure (called interocular pressure) in the eye. Unfortunately, the early stages of glaucoma do not have any symptoms, so many people who have it are not aware. Left untreated, glaucoma can lead to blindness. Because of this, it is very important to see your optometrist at least once a year so glaucoma can be detected early and treated.
Patients with glaucoma often only perceive a slow loss of peripheral vision, especially in the vision field close to your nose. If you notice a problem like this, see your optometrist right away.
- Prescription eye drops to lower interocular pressure;
- Laser treatment or surgery to help decrease pressure.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) comes in two forms: wet and dry, and affects the central portion of your vision. The most common form is dry AMD and is caused by a gradual thinning of the macula as you age. There is no cure for either form of AMD, and both can lead to blindness. The early stages of AMD do not present any symptoms, so make sure you always get your annual eye exam so if you have AMD, it can be detected as early as possible. Intermediate and late-stage AMD symptoms are below.
- Mild blurriness to your central vision, possibly some dark spots;
- Difficulty seeing in low lighting or at night.
- More blurriness;
- Loss of your central vision;
- Colors may seem less bright;
- Straight lines may start to look wavy or crooked.
- For AMD in the intermediate stage, special vitamins and minerals, known as the AREDS 2 formula, may be able to slow the progress or even prevent intermediate AMD from turning into late AMD;
- For late AMD, treatment options are very limited but there are some low vision options that can help you make the best of your remaining vision:
- Telescopic eyeglasses or lenses that filter light;
- Use a manual magnifier or video magnifier when reading;
- Find large-print reading materials and increase the font size on your smartphone, computer, or tablet;
- Use devices with the ability to speak information to you such as smartphones, watches, and clocks;
- Consider rearranging furniture in your home for more ease of movement.
Growing older doesn’t mean slowing down. You want to have the most vibrant, dynamic lifestyle possible and healthy vision is a part of that. Your eyes may change as you age, but with regular eye exams and the treatments now available for common age-related vision problems, it is easier than ever to protect and preserve your vision for years to come. Call one of our offices to schedule your appointment today!