Celebrate Healthy Aging Month with these age-related eye care tips.
September marks the beginning of the Healthy Aging Month. Growing older brings a range of health issues, some of these involving the eyes and vision.
While some of these changes are a natural part of aging, patients can take several proactive steps to prevent vision loss and other eye-related issues.
Aging patients can expect changes in their vision. Some of the most common age-related eye changes include:
Presbyopia: Deterioration of close-range vision. Typically starts around the age of 40.
Dry eyes: A common condition in which the eye can’t produce enough tears to stay sufficiently lubricated. These tears are necessary for the eyes' health, as they are responsible for lubricating the eye, sweeping away foreign objects, and reducing the risk of infections.
Floaters: These are tiny spots that appear in your visual field. Floaters are caused by changes in the vitreous, gel-like fluid in the back of the eye.
Most of these common eye conditions are not signs of serious health problems. Many can be managed with non-invasive treatments. For instance, patients can correct presbyopia with reading glasses or specialty contacts. Those suffering from dry eye can apply prescription eye drops.
While some age-related eye conditions are harmless and easily treated, aging puts patients at risk of potentially serious eye diseases.
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in older Americans. An estimated 6% of people in the US aged 40 and older have some stage of this medical condition.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) develops when cells in the macula deteriorate, impacting vision. As the condition progresses, patients may notice blurry or distorted vision, reduced central vision, and decreased color brightness.
Diabetes can damage the retina, which leads to diabetic retinopathy — a significant ocular disease that can diminish or destroy vision.
Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the retina’s blood vessels swell, leak, or close off, which can cause abnormal new blood vessels to develop on the retina. Like other diabetic health conditions, diabetic retinopathy becomes more common as patients get older.
A cataract is an ocular condition where the lens inside of the eye becomes cloudy and hardened over time, allowing less and less light to enter. This causes vision to dim and blur and can make daily activities more difficult.
Cataracts are a natural part of the aging process. However, if they begin to disturb or disrupt vision, patients may receive treatments like cataract surgery.
Glaucoma is a progressive eye disease that targets the optic nerve. It is usually associated with high pressure inside the eye.
Since glaucoma comes with few warning signs, regular exams with an eye specialist are needed for early detection and vision loss prevention. Many people have glaucoma, yet they don’t experience vision problems until it has permanently damaged the optic nerve.
While there are factors outside their control, patients can make lifestyle changes to preserve their eye health as they age.
Proper diet and nutrition play a pivotal role in maintaining the health of both the eyes and the body. Nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, Zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids can all protect our eyes as we age.
A healthy diet can help preserve vision, prevent serious eye conditions, and protect from harmful environmental factors. Patients can consult both their general practitioner and eye doctor for suggestions for specific dietary changes.
Some foods that are known to promote eye health are:
Cold water fish
Along with a healthy diet, an active lifestyle leads to better overall health. Regular physical activity reduces the risk of conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol — all of which can lead to vision problems.
If patients already have the habit of exercising, they should continue to maintain and adjust their routines as they age. If patients do not exercise regularly, they should talk to their eye doctor or physician about ways to add more physical activity to their life.
Smokers are up to 4 times more vulnerable to age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) — the leading cause of blindness in the US.
Researchers show the negative effects of smoking can continue even after smokers quit. Total abstinence from cigarettes is the safest option, hence in patients with a smoking habit, quitting as soon as they can should be a priority.
UV rays from the sun are one of the most prominent threats to the eyes. If patients participate in outdoor activities, they should take proper precautions to protect their eyes.
Protection from UV rays starts with a pair of protective sunglasses. For maximum protection, select glasses with 99 to 100% UV or UV400 protection that block both UV-A and UV-B rays.
Patients who participate in sports and physical activities should consider wearing protective eyewear. Approved eyewear can prevent an estimated 90% of sports-related eye injuries.
Eye diseases that affect older patients like AMD, cataracts, and glaucoma, can only be detected during eye exams. This makes it essential for patients to schedule regular trips to their eye doctor as they age.
Comprehensive eye exams not only lead to early diagnosis of critical eye conditions but also keep patients up to date with age-related changes to their eyes. It is recommended that patients over 65 receive a comprehensive eye exam every one to two years.
Learn about our top questions from patients about eye health, and what you can do to improve your conditions.
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