As we inch into our sixties, we need to be aware of our eyesight and take care of our vision. Many eye diseases have no early symptoms, making it imperative to know what to expect and get help to safeguard our eyesight. Regular eye tests by a qualified optometrist and early detection of disease can significantly improve your chances of maintaining good eye health as we age. We also need to keep in mind that health problems affecting other parts of our body can affect our vision. For instance, people with diabetes or hypertension (high blood pressure) are at a greater risk of developing vision problems.
Here are some age-related vision disorders:
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
This eye disease affects the macula (the centre of the light-sensitive retina at the back of the eye) and causes central vision loss. The macula is the part of the retina that allows us to see fine detail and colours and is important for activities like reading, driving, watching TV and recognising faces. While macular degeneration decreases central vision, your peripheral or side vision remains unaffected.
This condition affects people with diabetes due to progressive damage to the tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina. These damaged blood vessels leak blood and other fluids that cause retinal tissue to swell and cloud vision. The longer a person has diabetes, the greater the risk for developing diabetic retinopathy. In addition, the instability of a person’s glucose measurements over time can impact the development and/or severity of the condition. In extreme cases, diabetic retinopathy can cause blindness.
These are characterised by cloudy or opaque areas in the normally clear lens of the eye. Usually cataracts develop in both eyes, but one may be worse than the other. Cataracts can cause blurry vision, decreased contrast sensitivity, decreased ability to see under low light level conditions (such as when driving at night), dulling of colours and increased sensitivity to glare.
This disease is characterised by damage to the optic nerve resulting in loss of peripheral (side) vision. It often affects both eyes, typically one eye before the other. If left untreated, glaucoma can lead to total blindness. People with a family history of glaucoma, African Americans and older adults have a higher risk of developing the disease. Glaucoma often has no obvious symptoms until there is a significant loss of side vision.
In this case, a person produces too few or poor-quality tears needed to maintain the health of the front surface of the eye and provide clear vision. Dry eye is a common problem in older adults.
How to avoid age-related vision loss:
A healthy diet, regular exercise and good lifestyle choices such as not smoking, are your best natural defence against vision loss as you get older. Visit your optometrist for regular eye exams once a year, or more frequently if you have a pre-existing condition. When you visit your optometrist, make sure to discuss any concerns you have about your vision, taking into account your family history of eye disease and other health problems. If you are on any medication – prescription drugs, vitamins, herbal supplements, etc., make sure you tell your doctor/ optometrist.
When was the last time you had your eyes examined? Don’t delay. Book in for an eye test by our team of qualified optometrists.