Eye problems and vision impairments are widespread, and far too often they still go untreated. As per the World Health Organization (WHO), globally, at least 2.2 billion people have a vision impairment. Of these, at least 1 billion people suffer either a vision impairment that had scope for prevention or is yet to be addressed.
The possibility of acquiring such disorders increases by 30-35% for individuals after the age of 65. It is, therefore, imperative for senior citizens to remain alert for caring for their eyes and taking some precautions to protect their eyesight.
Some of the most common vision problems to look out for in senior citizens are:
1. Age-related macular degeneration
This disease is one of the leading causes of vision loss for people age 50 and older. Since it affects the central vision of your retina, it affects one’s vision when it comes to recognizing faces and reading. The two types of AMD are Dry AMD which is caused when there is thinning of macular tissues or with the deposit of a pigment known as macula or it can be a combination of both. Wet AMD is an advanced stage of the disease where new blood vessels are known to grow beneath the retina and leak blood and fluids. The leakage damages the sensitive cells in retina, resulting in blind spots or loss of vision.
Management of the condition in dry AMD, can be in the form of oral supplementation of antioxidants. For Wet AMD one has to take intravitreal injections and/or laser/photodynamic therapy. It is important to detect this condition in its early stages to slower the disease progression with nutritional supplements. That’s why regular follow ups to the eye doctor are important.
2. Diabetic retinopathy
Older adults suffering from diabetes are usually prone to diabetic retinopathy. This is one of the eye problems which develop slowly, often with no early warning signs. Therefore, if you have diabetes, be sure to have a dilated eye exam at least once a year. Few early symptoms include blurred vision but as the disease advances, you may also notice floaters, blind spots or cloudiness of vision. Drug injections and laser may improve or preserve vision in such cases.
Cataract has been documented to be the most significant cause of bilateral blindness in India where the annual incidence of its blindness is about 3.8 million. This condition involves cloudy areas that develop in the lens of your eye since cataracts prevent light from getting there, which causes blurred vision. A surgery can restore good vision and is a safe and common treatment. If you have a cataract, your eye care professional will watch for changes over time to see if you would benefit from surgery.
As one ages, reading materials can become less clear, in part because the lens in your eye becomes less flexible over time. This is the reason why it is difficult for eyes to focus on nearby objects. This eye problem of Presbyopia is a gradual loss of your eyes’ ability to focus on nearby objects and usually becomes noticeable in your early to mid-40s and continues to worsen until around age 65. One may also need to change eyeglasses or contact lens prescriptions more frequently than earlier. As one nears 60, changes in near vision should stop, and prescription changes usually occur less frequently.
5. Dry eyes
Older people are almost twice as likely to have dry eyes compared with their younger counterparts, as dry eyes happen when tear glands can’t make enough tears or produce poor quality tears. It can be uncomfortable and can cause itchiness and a burning sensation. It can also cause loss of vision in cases where proper care is not taken. It is key to use a humidifier or special eye drops that simulate real tears. In serious cases, one may also need a surgery.
The last word
Most of these common eye problems for older adults need to be found and treated early to prevent as much damage as possible. It is important for them to get an eye exam twice every year. If someone is suffering from diabetes or has a family history of eye disease, see your eye doctor regularly for comprehensive eye exams and take special precautions.