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Most common causes of vision loss in seniors and the importance of regular eye exams for prevention

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As we age, changes occur with our vision. Some of these changes are perfectly normal and may not signify cause for alarm, while others can have a life-changing impact. Some of these changes may come without any symptoms and can have the ability to affect our vision and quality of life permanently. In fact, there are a number of eye diseases that develop painlessly, with no warning signs, and cause irreversible damage.

Here are some of the most common causes of vision loss among seniors:

  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the deterioration of the macula, which is the small central area of the retina that controls visual acuity. It affects an individual’s central vision. AMD is the leading cause of severe vision loss in adults over age 50.
  • Glaucoma is a disease that damages the eye’s optic nerve, which is vital for vision. Glaucoma has no noticeable symptoms in its early stages, and vision loss progresses gradually.
  • Cataracts are the clouding of the eye’s naturally clear lens, which leads to a decrease in vision.
  • Diabetic retinopathy is damage to the retina caused by complications of diabetes. If left untreated, it can lead to blindness.  Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in American adults and is also one of the most preventable causes of vision loss and blindness.

Research has shown that by the age of 65, one in every three individuals has some form of vision-reducing eye disease. This makes regular eye exams critically important, especially for seniors. The American Optometric Association recommends annual eye examinations for every individual over the age of 60. Eye exams have been shown to significantly improve the chances of maintaining proper eye health and vision. Yet, of the nearly 61 million U.S. adults at high risk for vision loss, only half visited an eye doctor in the past year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a comprehensive dilated eye exam by an optometrist or ophthalmologist is the most effective way to detect and treat eye diseases in their earliest stages. Annual eye exams are not only crucial for the prevention of vision loss, but they can also help detect other serious health conditions. In fact, many people first learn they have conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and even cancer from a routine eye exam.

Annual eye exams are especially important for anyone with diabetes or who might be at risk for the disease. In fact, 90 percent of blindness caused by diabetic retinopathy is considered preventable. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends individuals with diabetes have an eye exam annually or as often as recommended by their ophthalmologist.

While aging is inevitable and vision changes may occur, these changes don’t have to affect your quality of life. Regular eye exams have been proven to have a life-changing impact on preserving vision. Take action today by seeking professional care to help safeguard your vision!

Learn more about vision loss in seniors in our Seniors and Health infographic.

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