Do you know that your eyes experience significant changes during the middle years? Do you know how often your eyes need to get checked after you enter your forties? Are you aware of the best ways to preserve your vision? Knowing when to seek professional eye care and the early signs of age-related eye diseases can help you maintain your healthy vision even beyond your 40s. The earlier your eye problems are diagnosed and treated, the more likely you are to restore and maintain healthy vision. Following are some of the most common age-related eye diseases and their early signs which you should be aware of:
Almost everyone experiences the onset of presbyopia in their late-30s or mid-40s. The flexibility of the eye lessens with age thereby making it hard to perform simple tasks such as reading and driving. In fact, studies have revealed that 1 out of every 3 Americans will experience vision-impairing eye disease by the age of 65. One of the most common signs of presbyopia is the tendency to hold reading materials away from the eyes in order to see and read clearly. If this condition is not corrected, it results in headaches and eye fatigue.
If you are diabetic or have a pre-diabetic condition, then you need to take regular eye examinations once you get to your mid-30s and work with doctors to control your blood sugar levels, blood pressure, cholesterol and weight. The most common vision correction strategy for presbyopia is reading glasses.
Cataract is an eye condition that is characterized by the clouding of the lens which results in blurry vision. If your vision had become blurry, dim or cloudy or you cannot see bright colors as they are, you may have developed a cataract. The effects may not be immediate but they gradually begin to interfere with your vision and adversely affect your performance of daily activities.
It is important to keep in mind that cataracts can be treated through surgery. Cataracts may not need to be removed right away, except when your lifestyle is being affected significantly. Surgery allows the removal of the cloudy natural lens that is then replaced with an intraocular lens (IOL). Changing your eyeglass prescription may also help in improving vision. However, cataracts that are part of the aging process may not be reversed. You may consult an experienced ophthalmologist for detailed information about the cataract surgery procedure, costs, benefits, recovery as well as possible complications among other important information before deciding if it is the best solution for your specific condition.
This is a disease that mainly causes damage to the optic nerve in the eye. Glaucoma is caused when there is a buildup of fluids within the front part of the eye. This condition significantly increases the pressure on the eye and eventually damages the optic nerve that is responsible for sending signals from the retina to the brain for interpretation.
Interestingly, close to three million Americans suffer from this disease but only half of them know that it is glaucoma. Although early treatment can prevent this disease, glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness among people aged over 60 years.
This is mainly attributed to the fact that the symptoms of this disease do not manifest until it gets to an advanced stage. Early detection and treatment usually help in preserving vision. There are different types of glaucoma that include the following:
· Normal tension glaucoma
· Open-angle glaucoma
· Congenital glaucoma
· Glaucoma suspect
· Angle closure glaucoma
Regardless of the type of glaucoma that you are diagnosed with, it is important to seek treatment at the earliest opportunity to save your sight.
This is another common type of eye disease that occurs when the retina gets damaged due to diabetes. In some instances, the vessels swell resulting in leakage of fluid or complete close off, while in other cases the abnormal new blood vessels may grow right on the surface of your retina. This impedes the transmission of light rays and prevents the subsequent interpretation of images that is facilitated by the macula – a small area that is found at the center of the retina and is responsible for pinpoint vision, sewing, reading as well as face recognition. The disease causes loss of vision that is in most cases irreversible, as it progresses.
Diabetic retinopathy may manifest in 2 ways:
· Background or Non-Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (NPDR) – This is the earliest stage of this condition where the damaged blood vessels within the retina leak extra fluid as well as small amounts of blood in the eye. In some cases, fat or cholesterol deposits from blood may also leak in the retina. NPDR may result in various changes in the eye that include retinal hemorrhages, micro aneurysms, hard exudates, macular edema and macular ischemia. Many diabetics have a mild form of NPDR that has no apparent effect on their vision.
· Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy (PDR)– This occurs when many blood vessels within the retina close, thereby preventing the flow of blood. Consequently, the retina grows new blood vessels in an attempt to restore the flow of blood in the area, this is known as neovascularization. PDR may affect vision through traction retinal detachment, neovascular glaucoma and vitreous hemorrhage.
Age Related Macular Degeneration
Age related macular degeneration (AMD) refers to the breakdown of the macula, which is a small area within the retina and is responsible for central vision and clarity of sight. Macular degeneration may occur due to the natural aging process of the body. Symptoms include blurriness and distortion or permanent loss of central vision.
Macular degeneration may be caused by the formation of deposits beneath the retina or growth of abnormal blood vessels under the retina. This condition hardly leads to total loss of sight. In fact, the impact of this disease on vision is usually minimal. In the case of vision loss, it begins with a single eye. There are two different types of macular degeneration namely the dry macular degeneration that is mainly caused due to the thinning of macula tissues as well as aging process. Wet macular degeneration typically occurs when abnormal vessels grow beneath the retina.
This uncomfortable condition is more common among women after menopause owing to hormonal changes. Dry eyes can be treated with over the counter lubricants. Surgery may also be recommended to reduce tear drainage. If you use contact lenses, be sure to follow guidelines and avoid wearing lenses longer than recommended. You can also discuss your eye treatment options with an ophthalmologist if you intend to have Lasik or refractive surgery. You will do well to avoid medications that increase eye dryness.
Vision Screening Recommendations
Vision screening is recommended at the age of 40 and this applies to everyone including those who are known to have risk factors and those with no visible symptoms.
A baseline comprehensive eye examination is recommended in adults aged 40 and older as it can uncover common abnormalities within the visual system for timely and appropriate intervention. Early detection increases the chances of a favorable outcome for diseases like cataract, glaucoma as well as diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetes Related Vision Loss
Diabetes affects the body’s capacity to generate and effectively use insulin for controlling blood sugar levels. While glucose is a vital source of energy, an excessive amount can cause damage to various body parts that include the eyes, blood vessels, kidneys and the heart. Diabetic people face a high risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revealed that at least 90% of diabetes related vision loss might be prevented if detected early. Thus, it is important for diabetics or pre-diabetics to ensure they have eye exams regularly in order to protect their sight.
Tips for Maintaining Your Eye Health
These are a number of things that you can do in order to promote good eye health:
· Eat a Balanced Diet – Increasing your intake of a diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids can also prevent dry eye. You can also wear protective sunglasses and avoid arid, smoky, dusty or windy conditions.
· Exercise– Regular exercising promotes blood circulation and improves oxygen intake. It also helps keep your weight in check reducing the risk of diabetic retinopathy. Gentler exercise such as yoga, walking, tai chi, breathing and stretching can be effective in keeping healthy eyes.
· Protect your Eyes from the Sun –It is important to protect your eyes from harsh UV radiation. Remember to use protective eyewear.
· Sleep– Eyes enjoy lubrication while sleeping. Sleep is also important in clearing irritants like allergens, smoke, and dust that have accumulated over the day.
· Periodic checkups – Regular checkups help to identify the symptoms of any potential eye problems before the condition worsens.
Your vision definitely gets affected by aging but it does not have to be serious to the extent of losing sight as this can be prevented with timely diagnosis and early intervention.
About the Author:
Aaron Barriga is the online marketing manager for Insight Vision Center. With a knack for understanding medical procedures, and an interest in eye and vision health, Aaron loves to share what he knows and what he learns. He blogs with a mission of informing readers about the latest eye care technology and other topics related to eye care and eye health. He loves collecting coasters from the different bars and restaurants he visits during his travels.