As people age, many changes occur in the body including the eyes. Normally, older people will have vision loss and other eye problems. There are common eye problems people may encounter when they reach their golden years, and this is what I will be covering in this article.
Glaucoma, cataracts, dry eyes, and flashers are just a few of the common eye conditions among seniors. Though these may pose challenges to older adults, they should not be a reason to affect one’s quality of life. With just a few tweaks to your lifestyle along with regular eye check-ups, you can control and even prevent the progression of vision loss.
Challenges of Having Vision Problems
Some problems in eyesight are caused by underlying conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes. It can also be caused by the side effects of medications for chronic diseases. These vision problems may pose challenges in the:
- The pleasure of reading and watching
- Ability to drive
- Sense of independence
- Risk of falls and fractures
Despite these challenges, your doctor can conduct ways to maintain a good quality of life through treatments and devices which I will discuss in the latter part.
There are many types of vision loss and problems among seniors, and below is a list of the most common conditions older adults suffer from.
Age-related Macular Degeneration
A part of the retina called the macula contains millions of nerve cells that are responsible for the reading and recognition of objects and faces. These cells are also known to be sensitive to light. AMD happens when there is a lack of these nerve cells causing blurred vision. Though it doesn’t result in total blindness, it may cause discomfort and vulnerability to falls. Some cases of AMD can be treated by laser or injection.
Cataracts are one of the most common vision losses among older adults. This condition is characterized by cloudy-like areas in the eye lenses. This inhibits the passing of light through the lenses causing blurry vision. A cataract doesn’t usually cause pain, redness, or irritation and it can be easily treated through cataract surgery. This surgery is done by removing the affected eye lenses and replacing them with artificial plastic lenses.
This is another common eye condition in older adults which is characterized by increased pressure inside the eyes. The constant pressure may lead to vision loss or permanent blindness. Glaucoma is usually caused by aging, genetics, diabetes, or medication side effects, and it doesn’t occur with any warning signs or symptoms. That’s why it is important to take regular visits to your doctor to catch and treat the disease before it gets worse.
People with Glaucoma are usually given oral medications, laser treatment, eye drops, or surgery to treat the condition.
This is an eye condition that normally occurs when you reach your 30s or 40s. It refers to the inability to see or read close objects and small fonts. People with Presbyopia may experience occasional headaches when reading or focusing on a certain object. Fortunately, this condition can be treated by using multifocal lenses or reading glasses.
Also called flashers. Floaters refer to dark or light flakes or spots that can be seen across the field of vision. This condition is pretty normal, but sometimes it can be distracting. In some cases, floaters are an indication of another eye condition called retinal detachment which may cause further vision loss. Check with your doctor if you notice spots are increasing in number and get the right treatment for your condition.
As the name states, dry eyes refer to the inability of tear glands to produce tears leading to dryness and irritation. People with dry eyes may experience burning, itching, and minor vision loss, however, this can be treated with eye drops specialized for dry eyes. Doctors may also advise providing a humidifier in your home or workplace to keep your eyes exposed to moisture. Furthermore, severe cases of dry eyes may require surgery.
This condition is caused by the complications of diabetes, wherein the blood vessels responsible for the nourishment of the retina become damaged. This will cause leakage of fluid and blood from the damaged vessels resulting in blurry vision and swelling in the eyes. As the condition progresses without treatment, it may result in permanent blindness. To prevent the worst-case scenario, doctors may conduct laser treatment and injections. It is also important to get regular eye check-ups and regulate blood sugar levels for people with diabetes.
This condition happens when the retina of the eye becomes detached from the underlying tissue of the eyes. This causes dark shadows within your line of vision, floaters, and a wavy-like vision underwater. Retinal detachment can result in permanent vision loss, however, it can be treated through laser and surgery. This is done by reattaching the retina to the tissue, which will possibly restore normal vision.
This condition pink eye or red eye is very common among people of all ages but is more prevalent among seniors. It is characterized by red, irritated eyes, and the feeling of something on your eyes. Conjunctivitis is usually due to exposure to irritants or chemicals and can be treated through antibiotic eye drops.
This refers to the inflammation of arteries near your temples and other parts of the body. The initial symptoms include headaches, tenderness of the temples, and discomfort while chewing. Severe cases may include high fever, weakness in the hip, and tenderness in the scalp. If the condition is not treated immediately, it may lead to permanent vision loss. Visit your doctor immediately if you experience the symptoms mentioned earlier.
Devices for Vision Loss
Aside from surgery and medications, your doctor may also recommend an assistive tool for you. This will help maintain a good quality of life despite your vision loss. Examples of assistive devices include:
These magnifiers are designed to be mounted on spectacles. This will let you practically perform tasks with both hands while your vision is assisted by this tool.
This is a system that can be used with a computer or monitor. It enlarges the text of the reading material, and you can also adjust its brightness, contrast, size, and illumination for further eye comfort.
Handheld or Spectacle-Mounted Telescopes
This type of assistive device is helpful for people with vision loss in seeing long distances such as watching television or a live game.
Handheld and Stand Magnifiers
The difference between handheld and stand magnifiers is that they are not intended to be mounted on your spectacles, rather it has a stand or can be held by a hand. It is used to have a detailed view of specific objects or lists such as price tags and marks.
Other devices like audiobooks and software programs for visually impaired individuals can also provide comfort and convenience to people with vision loss.
Living With Vision Loss
According to AFB (American Foundation for the Blind), people with vision loss should do the following practices:
- Make sure to provide lighting in all outdoor pathways at night
- Always clean gardens and lawns to avoid uneven ground
- Maintain a clear pathway within and along furniture
- Read in a well-lit room
- Install grab bars in the bathroom
- Always use task lights in accomplishing work
It’s also crucial to attend regular eye check-ups. For younger people, getting your eyes checked once every two years is enough. On the other hand, older adults aged 65 years and above should have annual eye check-ups to ensure eye health and potentially cure the initial stages of vision loss.
Vision is part of our 5 senses, which makes it an essential part of living. But as we age, we become more susceptible to vision loss. Most eye problems may not be evident as it doesn't have any warning signs until it becomes worse. That’s why it is important to get your eyes checked regularly and maintain a healthy lifestyle. I hope you learned a lot about vision loss through this comprehensive and informative article.