Our eyesight is a precious commodity and most of us have learned from an early age to protect and care for our eyes. We have regular eye exams, wear glasses or contacts if necessary and take precautions to protect our eyes against foreign objects. We may regularly use eyedrops for dry eye and we’re careful to wear UV protected sunglasses when out of doors. Some of us have had laser surgery to improve our vision.
Too often, however, we take clear vision for granted. And as we get older we may not have the necessary insurance coverage to schedule those annual eye exams. The problem is that as we age we need to be even more diligent to care for our eyesight. Here is an overview of common eye problems and the ways we seniors can be proactive to protect our vision as we grow older.
Cataracts are caused by a protein build-up in the lens of the eye causing cloudy vision. They may be age-related or congenital where they are caused by infection or improper formation before birth. Sometimes they’re caused by secondary illness such as diabetes or by traumatic injury to the eye. Cataract surgery is commonplace and the condition is relatively easy to correct.
Dry Eye Syndrome
Dry eye syndrome symptoms include tearing, a “sand in the eye” feeling, itching and burning, red eyes with discharge, and sometimes blurred vision after reading or using the computer. A simple treatment for dry eye is proactive and regular use of eye drops. Dry eye drops are available with or without preservatives. Those without preservatives are recommended for those needing the drops four or more times per day. Causes of dry eye vary. They’re more common after age fifty, may be related to diseases such as diabetes, thyroid deficiencies or rheumatoid arthritis and can also be caused by clogged tear ducts or tear duct damage. Some medications are thought to cause dry eyes. Lipid-containing eye drops are available over the counter and eye gels for night use also alleviate the problem.
Glaucoma and Ocular Hypertension
Glaucoma is a serious eye condition in which the optic nerve is damaged. There are two major kinds of glaucoma. In open angle glaucoma there is a gradual loss of peripheral vision and eventually tunnel vision. In acute angle there may be more noticeable symptoms such as eye pain, nausea, blurred vision, red eyes, etc. Since the open angle form of glaucoma has virtually no symptoms until the damage has occurred, it is vitally important to have regular checkups. Simple eye tests can determine the pressure in the eye and the probability of damage in acute angle glaucoma in which this pressure (ocular hypertension) is too high.
Retinopathy is damage to the retina caused by diabetes. It may become worse the longer a person is diabetic. There is a battery of tests to diagnose the condition. The three major treatments for the condition include laser surgery, the injection of corticosteroids and removal of some of the vitreous, the eye’s clear internal fluid. This is a serious condition and diabetics should be extra-vigilant to have eye exams done regularly.
In macular degeneration there is damage to the retina causing loss of vision in the center of the vision field. There are two major kinds: dry macular degeneration is caused by atrophy to retinal pigment and wet is caused by abnormal blood vessel growth. The degeneration is age-related as well as gene-related. There are a variety of diagnostic tests for the conditions. Treatment is through drugs and sometimes with vitamin supplements. Again, the testing should be done on a regular basis if any eye problems arise.
Prevention of Vision Loss as We Age
Regular eye check-ups are extremely important as we age. Many eye conditions will be prevented or damage to vision kept to a minimum if they are caught in early stages. Our eyes age as the rest of our body does and good, preventative care will help to protect our vision well into our senior years.
For more information on eye conditions, symptoms, treatments and free eye testing see the following:
www.nhs.uk (search eyecare)