It is no secret that as we age, our bodies change. We typically expect grey hair and wrinkles. However, we rarely consider the changes that occur with our eyes, and the inevitable effects they may have on our vision.
Many common eye conditions can affect aging adults. In fact, by the age of 65, one in three individuals has some form of vision-reducing eye disease. Some of the most common age-related eye diseases among seniors include cataracts, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy.
Common Age-Related Eye Conditions
Cataracts: A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens of your eye. It can be caused by excess blood sugar from diabetes. Cataracts are the most common cause of vision loss for individuals over age 40. This condition is also the primary cause of blindness in the world.
Glaucoma: is one of the leading causes of blindness for individuals over the age of 60. Glaucoma typically occurs when there is too much pressure inside the eye, which causes damage to the optic nerve at the back of the eyeball, leading to permanent vision loss. Heredity is a significant risk factor for glaucoma, as is age, race, diabetes, and some medications.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD): AMD is the leading cause of vision loss for individuals over the age of 50. It is defined as the degeneration of the macula, which is the area of the retina responsible for central vision. Risk factors for AMD include age, family history, cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension, and smoking. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 1.8 million people have AMD and another 7.3 million are at substantial risk for vision loss from AMD.
Diabetic retinopathy: is the leading cause of vision impairment and blindness among working-age adults in the United States. Diabetic retinopathy is a severe eye condition that occurs when diabetes affects the blood vessels in the retina, causing them to leak and distort vision. It often has no symptoms in its early stages, but can lead to severe complications and even blindness.
Preventing Age-Related Eye Problems
Changes to our eyes due to aging are inevitable. The good news is there are things you can do to reduce your risk of eye disease and maintain lifelong eye health.
- Quit smoking: Individuals who smoke have a higher risk of developing eye diseases.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Research suggests individuals who are obese or overweight are more likely to develop cataracts and glaucoma than those who are not.
- Eat nutritious foods that support eye health: Eat a healthy diet rich in vitamins, minerals, healthy proteins, omega-3 fatty acids, and lutein.
- Be physically active: Some research indicates that individuals who were physically active and drank occasionally experienced less vision loss over 20 years than those who didn’t exercise or drink at all.
- Wear sunglasses: When outdoors, wear sunglasses that block ultraviolet (UV) radiation and a wide-brimmed hat.
- Reduce high blood pressure: High blood pressure can contribute to eye problems.
- Visit your ophthalmologist every one to two years and schedule an annual comprehensive dilated eye exam to help identify vision problems early. Take special precautions if you have diabetes or a family history of eye disease.
Although aging is inevitable, these simple preventative measures can help you reduce your risk for vision loss and maintain your eye health and quality of life.
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