Eye Exams and Eye Care for Senior Citizens
Regular eye exams are essential for good health, especially if you're a senior citizen. There are serious eye conditions which can be caught by your eye doctor before you've even begun experiencing symptoms, and the earlier you start treatment, the better your chances of keeping your eyesight.
Of those who are blinded by causes other than trauma, more than half are age 65 or over. Age related vision problems generally start with presbyopia at around age 40, and then continue to develop as the years go by.
How often should you see the eye doctor?
For most people, a thorough eye exams should be completed every two years; however, there are some conditions that suggest that require more frequent visits. For example, people with diabetes have a higher risk of several eye diseases, including glaucoma and cataracts, and typically should have their eyes examined at least once a year. Diabetics are also susceptible to diabetic retinopathy, a serious condition which can progress to irreversible blindness if left untreated.
Other conditions that can affect senior eyes
There are a number of other conditions that can affect the vision of senior citizens and can lead to total vision loss if not monitored carefully. These conditions include:
- Glaucoma: This condition is marked by increased intraocular pressure and decreased visual function. Treatment for glaucoma may include medications or surgery. If there is a family history of the condition or it is diagnosed, your eye doctor may recommend that you get eye exams twice per year.
- Cataracts: As we age, the lens inside the eye can become cloudy, causing blurry or foggy vision and other problems. This is referred to as a cataract, and is an extremely common condition in seniors. By the age of 80, more than half of all Americans have either had or are contemplating cataract removal surgery. (Surgery is currently the only treatment option for cataracts and is successful in nearly 95% of cases.)
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD): This condition involves deterioration of the macular (the most sensitive part of the retina, responsible for the central field of vision), is progressive and can lead to serious vision loss or even total blindness. The biggest risk factor for AMD is age; middle age people have only about a 2% risk of developing the disease, but this jumps to 30% by age 75. Other risk factors include a family history of the disease, smoking and obesity. Women and Caucasians also have an increased risk of developing AMD.
Keeping the eyes healthy for life
There are several things that you can do to keep your eyes as healthy as possible, especially if you’re a senior, including:
- Wearing sunglasses with 100% UVA/UVB protection whenever you're outside, even on overcast days. Sun related damage is a serious risk factor for a number of eye conditions, including cataracts.
- Wearing protective eye wear if you engage in any sport or activity that could cause damage or harm to the eye.
- Not smoking. Smoking is a major risk factor for a number of health conditions including those related to the eyes.
- Making sure that you eat a healthy diet including fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and lean proteins.
- Asking your eye doctor about supplements that can be beneficial to eye health. (Note that such supplements are not for everyone and can even be toxic under certain conditions. Always consult your doctor before adding any type of herb or supplement to your daily routine.)
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