One out of every three Americans develops a vision-impairing eye condition by the age of 65. Some age-related eye disorders (AREDs) that affect seniors include glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy. Knowing the signs and symptoms of each of these conditions, as well as the treatments available, can help you and a loved one protect their vision at old age.
Glaucoma occurs when the pressure inside the eye rises, causing damage to the optic nerve and vision loss or blindness. Up to one million people may get glaucoma without realising it because there are usually no early symptoms.
This disease is one of the primary causes of blindness in the United States. Patients rarely exhibit signs or symptoms in the early stages. Patients with glaucoma may realize that their side or peripheral vision is worsening as the disease progresses. Tunnel vision may deteriorate if left untreated.
A number of medications are available to treat glaucoma (in the form of eye drops and pills). Drugs alone may not be enough to manage excessive ocular pressure in some circumstances, and surgery is required. Trabeculoplasty is a laser-assisted procedure that improves the flow of fluids out of the eye, decreasing pressure. You can do this in your doctor’s office. Trabeculectomy is a classic operation in which your doctor creates a new drainage pathway beneath the eyelid.
Age, a family history of glaucoma, the use of steroid medicines, and nearsightedness are all risk factors for glaucoma.
A cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye, which is ordinarily clear. Water and protein make up the lens, but when the protein clumps together, it can block light from flowing through. If the cataract worsens to the point that it is obstructing vision, surgery to remove the cloudy lens and replace it with a new one may be necessary.
Cataract sufferers frequently complain of glare, cloudy/fuzzy vision, double vision in one eye, and halos surrounding lights. The only way to recover vision that has been lost due to cataracts is to undergo cataract surgery.
Growing older causes cataracts, and women are at a higher risk than men. Cataracts are more common in smokers, those who do not protect their eyes from the sun, and those who have a family history of cataracts.
Macular degeneration (MD) impairs central vision. Although MD patients seldom become completely blind as a result of their illness, many find reading, driving, and completing other daily tasks difficult. This condition affects the macula, which is located in the middle of the retina and is responsible for focused, central vision.
In the early stages of MD, there are typically no obvious signs. A person’s core vision will eventually become wavy or hazy, and in severe cases, it may completely vanish. Peripheral vision is frequently preserved since the bulk of the retina is physiologically healthy. Even if they have any remaining vision, patients with MD may have difficulty perceiving small details and colours.
MD is an incurable eye disease, however there are a few treatments that can slow down the progression of the disease. Macular degeneration patients may benefit from laser surgery and anti-angiogenic drug injections. Even if your eyesight deteriorates, low-vision devices can help you maintain an active and independent lifestyle.
Advanced age is the most significant risk factor for MD. In the United States, roughly 6.5 percent of persons aged 40 and over suffer from macular degeneration. Family history, high blood pressure, and smoking are all risk factors.
Diabetes is the cause of this potentially blinding eye illness. Diabetes causes abnormal changes in blood vessels, causing them to leak and enlarge in places they shouldn’t. These new blood vessels have a tendency to burst and hemorrhage. As they try to recuperate, the wounded blood vessels will contract and remove the retina.
Diabetic retinopathy causes blurred or distorted vision, partial vision loss, and eye pain, as well as shadows or dark objects “hovering” over your field of view.
Retinopathy is frequently connected to high blood sugar and high blood pressure. Type 2 diabetics who take a blood sugar-controlling medication called rosiglitazone (brand names Avandia, Avandamet, and Avandaryl) may be more vulnerable.
There is no recognized treatment for diabetic retinopathy. However, if laser treatment (photocoagulation) is performed before the retina is significantly damaged, it is usually quite effective in preventing vision loss. Vitrectomy (surgical removal of the vitreous gel) may help improve vision if the condition is detected early enough
Benefits of frequent eye exams
An ophthalmologist conducts an examination to diagnose age-related eye problems. A complete eye exam should include at least three of the following tests;
A visual acuity test measures how well you see at different distances using a lettered eye chart.
Pupil dilation requires putting drops in the eye to dilate the pupil. This allows the doctor to get a clearer picture of the retina and look for symptoms of eye illness. For several hours after the examination, eyesight may be obstructed.
Tonometry is a test that uses various methods to assess the fluid pressure inside the eye. The “air puff” test is the most popular method of identifying high intraocular pressure. In a painless operation, a small jet of air is shot against the cornea. Additional, highly complicated testing may be required to obtain more accurate readings.
Most age-related eye illnesses must be identified and treated early to minimize long-term harm. A comprehensive eye exam is recommended every one to two years, depending on a person’s age and risk factors. These tests are crucial for detecting diseases like glaucoma and MD in its early stages, when symptoms aren’t yet visible. If you or a loved one is experiencing obvious changes in vision, it is vital to arrange an eye exam as soon as possible.
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