As I have aged I have had conversations about eye health among friends who are also experiencing the effects of aging which highlight the significance of understanding and safeguarding our vision. Aging may bring about challenges such as glaucoma and cataracts. It’s extremely important to understand and protect senior eyes as some conditions cannot be reversed but can be avoided or reduced.
Understanding GlaucomaGlaucoma is a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve, often leading to vision loss. Often glaucoma doesn’t present many warning signs as things worsen. If you are having these conditions it may be an early sign.
- Rainbow-colored halos around lights.
- Low vision, blurred vision, narrowed vision (tunnel vision), or blind spots.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Red eyes.
- Eye pain or pressure
- The inner eye pressure (that pesky puff of air)
- The shape and color of the optic nerve (dilated eye exam)
- The complete field of vision (visual field test)
- The angle in the eye where the iris meets the cornea (Bright light exam)
- Thickness of the cornea (painless device takes about a minute)
For those diagnosed with glaucoma, adherence to prescribed medications is essential. Generally, these medications will be given in the form of a drop into the eye once daily and generally have no side effects. Be sure to adhere to taking the medications and to schedule your follow-up appointment to make sure they are working!
Understanding CataractsCataracts occur when the lens in the eye becomes cloudy, leading to blurry vision. Seniors can have several symptoms from cataracts:
- Cloudy or blurry vision.
- Lights are too bright and/or give off a glare or a halo.
- Poor night vision.
- Multiple (double) vision.
- Colors seem faded.
- Increased nearsightedness, increasing the need to change eyeglass prescriptions.
- Distortion of vision in either eye.
My first knowledge something was wrong was when I couldn't see the same detail in the distance in the evening vs. in the morning.
Explore lifestyle changes that can help manage cataracts. A diet rich in antioxidants, protection from UV rays, and smoking cessation can contribute to overall eye health and may reduce the impact of cataracts.
Many people consider poor vision an inevitable fact of aging, but cataract surgery is a simple, relatively painless procedure to regain vision. Cataract surgery is very successful in restoring vision. It is the most frequently performed surgery in the United States, with more than 3 million Americans undergoing cataract surgery each year. Ninety-eight percent of people who have cataract surgery regain very good vision, somewhere between 20/20 and 20/40. Like me, some may still need to use cheaters for those small hard to read menus in dark restaurants.
During surgery, the surgeon will remove your clouded lens and in most cases replace it with a clear, plastic intraocular lens (IOL). New IOLs are being developed all the time to make surgery less complicated for surgeons and the lenses more helpful to patients. Presbyopia-correcting IOLs potentially help you see at all distances, not just one. Another new type of IOL blocks both ultraviolet and blue light rays, which research indicates may damage the retina. The use of a laser to remove the lens and shape the new lens to correct astigmatism can also be considered.
In most cases, unless you choose presbyopia-correcting IOLs, you will still need reading glasses after cataract surgery. Another option for patients might be monocular vision--where each lens works at a different focal length one for reading and one for distance. You may also need progressive lenses to correct mild residual refractive errors as well as presbyopia. For the best vision and comfort possible with glasses prescribed after cataract surgery, ask your optician to explain the benefits of anti-reflective coating and photochromic lenses.
General Tips for Elderly Eye Health
- Adequate Lighting
Ensuring well-lit spaces reduces eye strain. Seniors should have proper lighting at home, especially in reading and working areas.
- Nutrient-Rich Diet
Promote a diet high in vitamins and nutrients beneficial for eye health, such as vitamin A, C, and E. Leafy greens, fruits, and fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids are excellent choices.
- Eye Protection
Encourage the use of sunglasses with UV protection and hats to shield the eyes from harmful sun rays. This is particularly crucial for seniors with cataracts.
- Stay Hydrated
Adequate hydration is vital for overall health, including eye health. Drinking enough water helps maintain the moisture levels in the eyes.
Caring for elderly eyes, especially in the presence of conditions like glaucoma and cataracts, requires a proactive and informed approach. By raising awareness, promoting regular eye check-ups, and implementing lifestyle adjustments, we can contribute to the well-being of our aging eyes. Remember, the key to preserving vision is early detection and consistent eye care practices.
Good vision is a wonderful thing!
- Cataract facts: https://nei.nih.gov/health/cataract/cataract_facts
- What You Should Know brochure: https://nei.nih.gov/sites/default/files/health-pdfs/WYSK_Cataract_English_Sept2015_PRINT.pdf
- Cataract animation: https://youtu.be/d5D0B2PoC7U
- Cleveland Clinic