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Healthy Aging Month: Understanding and Preventing Age-Related Vision Loss

Healthy Aging Month: Understanding and Preventing Age-Related Vision LossSeptember is Healthy Aging Month, a month set aside to encourage people
to take personal responsibility for their health and wellbeing.

Vision problems are common with age, and many people over age 40 will experience
some age-related vision loss due to presbyopia, which can make it difficult
to see to read and perform other simple tasks. Presbyopia is not dangerous,
and is typically corrected with eyeglasses or bifocals.

What eye conditions are common with age?

Other
eye conditions such as cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy
and glaucoma often affect aging adults and can result in severe vision loss.

Cataracts:
Cataracts
are a clouding of the eye’s focusing lens. They can blur vision, making
it difficult to see street signs and traffic lights while driving. Cataracts
can also make it difficult to read, watch TV and perform other common
daily tasks. Once the focusing lens is clouded, there is no way to clear
it. Cataract surgery must be performed to replace the focusing lens.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration: Sharp central vision gradually diminishes as the macula is destroyed by
age-related macular degeneration. You may experience difficulty completing common daily tasks like reading
or driving. Macular degeneration is common in adults over 50, and sometimes
it advances so slowly that symptoms go unnoticed for a long time. This
disease can be detected early with a comprehensive eye exam.

Diabetic Retinopathy: In
diabetic retinopathy, blood vessels in the back of the eye can leak, impairing vision. The
condition is caused by diabetes and can lead to a significant loss of
vision. It is the leading cause of blindness in people ages 20-64, and
is one of the most frequent causes of retinal blindness in the world.
About 25 percent of diabetics have some form of diabetic retinopathy,
and five percent have a severe form of the disease. Early detection of
diabetic retinopathy through a comprehensive eye exam is vital to saving vision.

Glaucoma:This is a condition in which fluid in the eye does not flow normally, resulting
in high pressure inside the eye. Nerve damage and permanent blindness
may occur if the high pressure is not controlled. You may be at a higher
risk of developing
glaucoma if you have high blood pressure, high blood sugar or a family history
of the disease. Again, early detection of glaucoma with a comprehensive
eye exam is vital.

How can age-related eye conditions be prevented?

You cannot turn back aging, but there are some things you can do to prevent
or slow the effect of aging on your eyes. Here are a few tips to help
keep your eyes healthy as you age:

  • Maintain regular eye exams. A
    comprehensive eye exam is the only way to detect eye conditions or vision loss. Early detection
    can also help prevent vision loss. Even if you are healthy and have not
    experienced vision loss, an annual eye exam is a must for anyone over 40.
  • Protect your eyes from the sun.The UV rays emitted by the sun can be extremely damaging to your eyes and
    are known to cause cataracts and macular degeneration. Wear sunglasses
    that block 100 percent of the sun’s UV rays. A wide-brimmed hat
    can also help protect your eyes from the sun when you are outside.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Eating healthy foods rich in vitamins and minerals is great not only for
    your overall health, but also for your eyes. People with low levels of
    antioxidants may be at a higher risk of developing age-related macular
    degeneration. Essential nutrients for healthy eyes include: vitamins C
    (citrus fruits, broccoli) and E (vegetable oils, nuts and avocados), as
    well as lutein and zeaxanthin, which are found in dark leafy vegetables
    and whole eggs. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish like salmon, sardines,
    mackerel, herring and trout, will also help keep the nerve cells around
    the retina healthy, thus preventing age-related eye conditions such as
    macular degeneration.
  • Manage your blood pressure and weight.According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, elevated blood pressure
    can lead to age-related macular degeneration. Individuals who are overweight
    or obese are more likely to develop diabetes, which could in turn lead
    to diabetic retinopathy.
  • Don’t smoke.Smoking reduces blood flow to the eye, which can lead to eye diseases.
    For individuals at risk of diabetic retinopathy or macular degeneration,
    smoking can greatly increase that risk.

If you have noticed changes in your vision, such as a sudden onset of floaters
or flashes, darkness in your field of vision, cloudy or blurred vision,
or gradual or sudden vision loss, contact the Key-Whitman Eye Center to
schedule a comprehensive eye exam.

Posted in: Cataracts, Eye Health, Glaucoma, Macular Degeneration

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