It is reported that 1-in-3 Americans develop some form of eye disease, which impairs vision by the time they are 65. Though some vision loss due to age (presbyopia) is normal, other eye diseases, such as cataracts, glaucoma, macular-degeneration and diabetic retinopathy are more serious and can cause more severe vision impairment. Early detection of these eye conditions through annual dilating eye exams is essential in preserving vision for senior adults.
A cataract is a clouding over of the focusing lens of the eye. It is not a growth or film on the lens of the eye. Vision loss due to cataracts cannot be stopped or reversed; eventually cataract surgery, in which the lens of the eye is removed and replaced with an implant, is the only option.
Glaucoma is an eye disorder related to a buildup of pressure in the eye, which can cause peripheral vision loss and eventually blindness. Risk of developing glaucoma significantly increases with each decade after 40. Treatments for glaucoma can include basic treatments such as eye drops to laser surgery.
Macular degeneration is the process of wear and tear on the macula, which affects ability to read, drive and see clearly. It is another condition often related to age. Macular degeneration is a leading cause of blindness in people over 60, though it rarely causes total blindness, as the peripheral vision is not affected. It is caused by a lack of good circulation and therefore a lack of proper nourishment to the cells of the macula.
Diabetic retinopathy is estimated to affect nearly 40 percent of the approximately 16 million diabetics in America. Damage to the retina caused by diabetes can eventually
cause blindness. In fact, people with diabetes are 25 times more likely to become blind than individuals who do not suffer from diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy can be prevented with regular eye exams.
Preventing Vision Loss Due to Age-Related Eye Disease
A regular, comprehensive eye exam should be a part of your normal health routine. If you are over 40, you should see your eye doctor every year. Additionally, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, eating right, exercising regularly, protecting your eyes against the sun and avoiding smoking can help reduce your chances of developing eye disease.
Don’t assume vision loss is normal as you age. If you have experienced a change in your vision, don’t simply brush it off as “old age,” schedule a comprehensive eye exam with the Key-Whitman Eye Center. We understand that many seniors do not receive regular eye exams due to a low or fixed income. The good news is most insurance plans, even Medicare, cover most of the charges for your eye care.
Another option for seniors is EyeCare of America, a public service program of the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Seniors 65 or older, who are U.S. citizens, have not seen an eye doctor in the last three years, and do not belong to an HMO or veteran’s vision care may be eligible to receive a free eye exam and eye care services with a participating ophthalmologist. Key-Whitman Eye Center participates in this program, providing eye care to seniors. Visit EyeCareAmerica.org to see if you qualify.