Eye Problems in Elderly People
Many people believe that losing their vision is a part of getting older. Many eye diseases and conditions are more common in elderly patients. However, what many people do not realize is that preventative measures and early treatment can help elderly patients to keep their vision. When you know more about common eye problems in the elderly, you will be better able to protect your vision as you age. Vision loss does not have to be a part of getting older for many Americans.
How Common Are Age Related Eye Problems?
One in three people over the age of 65 have some form of a vision reducing eye problem. Some of the common culprits include age related macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. These and other eye diseases can be serious, but often with proper treatment the vision loss associated with them can be delayed, reduced or prevented. Vision loss can greatly hinder the quality of life for elderly patients as it reduces their independence and ability to care for themselves. Eye care is important at every stage of life, but especially for seniors. In addition it is wise to be educated about common eye problems so that you can better understand how to prevent them and when to seek treatment.
Cataracts are the most common cause of blindness worldwide. In the U.S. they rarely cause permanent blindness because surgery is generally a very effective treatment option. Cataracts occur when the lens of an eye becomes cloudy. Typically cataracts progress slowly and blindness may take many years to occur. Mild cataracts can often be controlled by simply changing an eyeglass prescription. Once the disease progresses, cataract surgery is a very effective treatment option. In a cataract surgery the cloudy lens is removed and replaced with a clear artificial lens.
Age Related Macular Degeneration
Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is the number one cause of vision loss for those over the age of 65. AMD is a disease that impacts the macula. The macula is the central portion of the retina and is responsible for providing central vision. Those with AMD will slowly lose their central vision. Peripheral vision is not affected by AMD.
One of the first signs of AMD is blurry vision. Patients may also notice difficulty reading, appearance of distortion when viewing straight lines, darkness in center of vision and a diminished ability to see color. Early treatment is essential as it can help patients to retain vision for a longer period of time. Even if you have no signs of AMD you should receive regular eye care visits at least every other year as this is the best way to diagnose this condition early on.
A healthy diet is one of the best ways to delay or prevent this disease. Eating foods rich in carotenoids has been shown to reduce the risk for advanced AMD. Foods rich in carotenoids include egg yolk, kiwi, squash, broccoli, mango and cucumber among other foods. Smoking can increase your risk for this disease.
Glaucoma is an eye disease that results in damage to the optic nerve. The optic nerve transports visual signals to the brain and is essential for vision. It is estimated that more than 1 million Americans suffer from this condition. It can lead to complete blindness.
Increased eye pressure is one warning sign for glaucoma, although this early sign is not always present and does not always lead to glaucoma. Risk factors for this disease include age, genetics, smoking and hypertension.
Regular eye exams play an important role in early diagnosis of glaucoma. One reason for this is that most eye exams measure the pressure inside of the eye. If the eye pressure is too high, close monitoring and treatment can keep glaucoma from presenting in some cases. It is important to have an eye exam every one to two years.
Diabetic retinopathy is a cause of blindness associated with diabetes. Its occurrence increases as the number of patients living with diabetes long term increases. It results in damage to the delicate retina within the eye as well as to the blood vessels within the eye. This disease often has no symptoms until vision loss is quite severe. Almost everyone that has had diabetes for 30 years will show some signs of this disease.
The best way to avoid diabetic retinopathy is to avoid getting diabetes. It is important to eat a healthy diet and to exercise regularly. Of course avoiding diabetes is not always possible. Patients with diabetes can reduce their risk for diabetic retinopathy by controlling their disease carefully. Careful regulation of blood sugar is important. It is also important to avoid smoking and to monitor cholesterol and blood pressure. Patients with diabetes should receive regular eye exams. Since much damage can occur before diabetes is diagnosed it is a good idea to have an eye exam soon after receiving a diabetes diagnosis.
These are just four of the many eye diseases that can result in vision loss in the elderly. By understanding these conditions you will be better able to preserve your vision for as long as possible even if you do have one of these conditions. Early treatment is important at any age. One of the best ways to preserve vision is to get regular eye exams throughout your life.
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