Starting in the early to mid-40s, most of us may experience presbyopia, a condition in which the lens in the eye becomes less flexible, making it more difficult to focus at close distances.1 Fortunately, you have many options for dealing with presbyopia. Reading glasses, for example, can be a simple answer. As you continue to age through your 50s, presbyopia typically becomes more advanced. But these changes often stop around age 60.1
Also, if you’re over 40, you’re more likely to develop eye health and vision problems if you have any of the following risk factors:1
Diabetes A family history of glaucoma (increased pressure in the eye can lead to vision loss) or age-related macular degeneration (loss of central vision)
A visually demanding job or eye-hazardous work In addition, medications prescribed for common health conditions such as high cholesterol, thyroid conditions, anxiety or depression, and arthritis can increase your risk for vision problems.1 Many medications, even antihistamines, can adversely affect your vision.
If you’re over 60 As you reach your 60s and beyond, it’s important to watch for warning signs of age-related eye problems that could cause vision loss. Many eye diseases have no early symptoms, but early detection through regular eye examinations and treatment can help slow or stop their progression. Here are some of the problems you and your eye doctor should watch for:2
● Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)—an eye disease that causes loss of central vision
● Diabetic retinopathy—a condition that occurs in long-term diabetes and may cause vision loss
● Retinal detachment—tearing or separation of the retina from the underlying tissue2
● Cataracts—clouding of the lens of the eye and a cause of vision loss
● Glaucoma—damage to the optic nerve and a cause of blindness
● Dry eye—lack of eye lubrication
Issues such as needing more light, difficulty reading, problems with glare, changes in color perception and reduced tear production2 are signs that you should schedule an eye exam.
Look forward to the years ahead Growing older brings changes, but it also brings the opportunity to enjoy all the people and experiences we’ve gathered over our lives. To help ensure optimal eye health, take care of your eyes today and in the years ahead with an annual eye exam. Because no matter what your age, when you see and feel your best, you’ll have the time of your life.
Footnotes: 1. American Optometric Association, “Adult Vision: 41 to 60 Years of Age,” 2010.
2. American Optometric Association, “Adult Vision: Over 60 Years of Age,” 2010.
Glaucoma is the name for a group of eye diseases that develop when increased fluid pressure in the eyes damages the nerve fibers in the optic nerve and retina. This damage can lead to irreversible vision loss.
The good news is if glaucoma is detected and treated early, its progression can be slowed or stopped. But the bad news is that people with glaucoma don’t always show symptoms. That’s why it’s important to know if you’re at risk.
According to Prevent Blindness America, it’s estimated that over 4 million Americans have glaucoma, but only half know they have it. Anyone can get glaucoma, but if you fall into one or more of the risk categories listed below, it’s particularly important to receive a comprehensive eye exam that includes dilating your pupils every year:
● Advanced age: Advanced age: The older you are, the more likely you are to develop glaucoma.1
● African-Americans: Glaucoma is 6 to 8 times more prevalent in African-Americans than in other ethnic groups.2
● Family history: The most common type of glaucoma, primary open-angle glaucoma, is known to be hereditary. Doctors estimate people with a sibling who has glaucoma have almost 10 times the increased risk of developing it themselves.3
● Hispanics: Those of Hispanic descent, especially in older age groups, are at greater risk of developing glaucoma.3
● Asian-Americans: People who are Asian-American are more prone to developing angle-closure glaucoma and normal-tension glaucoma.3
● High intraocular pressure: Those with abnormally high pressure within the eye are at higher risk for glaucoma.
● Steroid use: According to a study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, research has shown a connection between long-term steroid use and glaucoma.
● Eye injuries: Blunt trauma to the eye can cause traumatic glaucoma, and those who have suffered an eye injury are potentially at risk for developing secondary open-angle glaucoma.3
● Diabetes: Having diabetes can increase your risk of glaucoma.3 Even if you don’t fall into any of these categories, it’s important to have an annual eye exam. And if you do, make sure you notify your doctor of your higher risk for glaucoma in person or by filling out pre-exam paperwork.
Footnotes: 1. Glaucoma Research Foundation, “Glaucoma Facts and Statistics,” January 2009.
2. American Academy of Ophthalmology, 2009.
3. Glaucoma Research Foundation, “Are You at Risk for Glaucoma?” January 2011.
Our eyes are cameras to the world, and for many of us the picture may be falling out of focus. Macular degeneration—simply described as blurred vision—is a leading cause of vision loss among people 50 and older, affecting more than 10 million Americans.1 If you think you may be among them, be glad to know that macular degeneration, or AMD, can be easily detected. There are even ways to reduce or slow its onset.
Comparing our eyes to a camera, macular degeneration is the breakdown of the film that records what we see. It represents the deterioration of the central portion of the retina, called the macula, which focuses our vision and enables us to read, drive and generally see fine details.1
The causes of AMD can be complex, involving heredity, the environment and lifestyle habits. Identifying its effects, however, can be relatively straightforward.
Detecting AMD and its effects
Those who have macular degeneration generally have blurred central vision. The eye condition is often called age-related macular degeneration because it tends to occur as we age.
85 to 90 percent of basic AMD cases are called “dry” or atrophic, indicating the thinning and drying out of the macula. The remaining 10 to 15 percent are called “wet,” and occur when abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina and macula and may bleed or leak, causing the macula to shift.1
The effects of AMD include:
● A waviness of lines or doorways appearing crooked
● Objects appear smaller or farther away
● More light needed to see up close
● Decreased color brightness
● Vision haziness
● Blurry or blind spots in central vision2
Undiagnosed, the long-term effects of AMD include continued vision loss or low vision that could make everyday tasks such as writing, reading or shopping difficult, even with prescription lenses.3
Reducing the risks of AMD
While age-related macular degeneration is hard to avoid, several conditions contribute to the risk of it occurring. By understanding these characteristics, you can reduce your risk of developing AMD or slow its progression:
Too much sun: UV exposure can cause eye diseases such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.4 It is essential to wear good eyeglasses and sunglasses purchased from a reputable source, with lenses and frames designed to suit your lifestyle and activities.
Inactivity: AMD is shown to occur less often in people who exercise.5
Smoking: Research shows that smoking can double the risk of AMD.6
Antacids: The regular use of antacids has been linked with developing AMD.7
Poor diet: Healthy foods that are high in antioxidants, such as leafy greens, blueberries and fish, as well as vitamins and zinc may help prevent the wet and dry forms of AMD and slow their progression.7
Also, women, Caucasians and people with light-colored eyes are more likely to develop AMD, as are those with a family history of it.7
If you notice any changes in your central vision or in your ability to see colors, make an immediate appointment for an eye exam. Because AMD exhibits few symptoms in its early stages, annual eye exams are the best way to improve the chances of getting an early diagnosis, and keeping your world in focus.
Footnotes: 1. American Macular Degeneration Foundation 2. “Macular Degeneration: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatments,” by Maureen Salamon, LiveScience, Feb. 5, 2015
3. “Facts About Age-Related Macular Degeneration,” National Eye Institute, https://nei.nih.gov/health/maculardegen/armd_facts
4. “Protection for the Naked Eye: Sunglasses as a Health Necessity,” Harris Poll on Behalf of The Vision Council.
5. “Facts About Age-Related Macular Degeneration,” National Eye Institute, https://nei.nih.gov/health/maculardegen/armd_facts
6. “10 Facts About Age-related Macular Degeneration,” Doctors Vision Center, Feb. 20, 2013, http://www.doctorsvisioncenter.com/10-amd-facts/
7. “Macular Degeneration,” University of Maryland Medical Center
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