*As people age so do their eyes. Some people suffer from vision problems early on and others can have great eyesight well into their 80s. Growing old does not always mean you’re going to lose your eyesight. Older eye age does mean weakened eyes however.
There are many eye age problems that affect people as they get older. There are also many eye disorders that affect people of all ages. Here are some of the more common vision problems in aging adults.
Presbyopia – This is a difficulty seeing objects that are close or in small print. The symptoms of presbyopia are often not seen until after the age of 40.
Cataracts – This eye age disorder causes clouding of the eye. This can cover part of the eye or the entire eye. This clouding occurs in the crystalline lens or the envelope of the lens and often causes nearsightedness (myopia).
Glaucoma – This eye age disease is actually a group of diseases which affects the optic nerve. This involves the loss of the retinal ganglion cells. A person can lose their eyesight completely without symptoms or warning from glaucoma.
Retinal Disorders – Some common retinal disorders include age related macular degeneration, retinal detachment, and diabetic retinopathy. These eye disorders affect the process of passing information from the eye to the brain.
Eye Tearing – Tearing is a common problem with eye age. The cause of this can be sensitivity to light, wind, and temperature. Wearing sunglasses may help, but this may also be the result of an eye infection or blockage.
Eyelid Problems – Many people with aging eyes have problems with their eyelids such as pain, tearing, itching, drooping eyelids, and sensitivity to light. This type of eye age disorder can often be treated with surgery.
Floaters or Flashes – Floaters are small tiny dark spots that float across the field of vision. These are often a normal part of aging process.
Dry Eyes – Dry eyes are also a common problem for aging eyes. Tear glands are often not able to make enough tears to keep the eyes lubricated. Dry eye syndrome is an uncomfortable chronic condition that affects 3.2 million American women over 50, two to three times as many as men, according to the Women’s Eye Health Task Force. Millions more sometimes have dry eye from not blinking often enough while using the computer, for example. Tears keep eyes moist and wash away particles that could scar the cornea. They also wash away dust and bacteria and provide a cushion between the eyelid and the cornea. They’re not just water. Tears have three layers: fatty oils, water and salt, and mucus. Via tears, the delicate surface of the eye receives oxygen and nutrients
Conjunctivitis – Conjunctivitis is an infection of the eye and causes the eyelids and corneal tissue to become red and inflamed. This condition is also called pinkeye. This occurs in people of all ages.
Life-long exposure to ultraviolet rays harms the lens of the eyes and raises your chance of getting cataracts. The blue light spectrum in sunlight is particularly dangerous, because it creates free radicals, which are unstable oxygen molecules that may cause macular degeneration. Therefore, you should avoid sunglasses that have blue-tinted lenses, which don’t filter out any blue light. Instead, opt for glasses that have yellow or amber tints, the colors that are most effective at reducing the amount of blue light that reaches your eyes. Dark-tinted lenses are also a good choice because dark colors decrease your exposure to all wavelengths of light. The ideal sunglasses choice for preserving the retina: frames with dark-tinted yellowish-gray lenses. In addition, always be sure to choose sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays, for the highest level of cataract protection.
Unless they wear glasses or already have an eye ailment, very few people proactively think about how to maintain their eye health. Taking care is especially key for women, who are more likely than men to suffer from cataracts, macular degeneration, and glaucoma. Many of the most effective vision-preserving strategies are simple lifestyle changes, among them wearing the right sunglasses (which helps prevent cataracts) and not smoking. Two-thirds of the world’s blind or visually impaired are women; they are twice as likely to get macular degeneration, two to three times more likely to suffer from dry eye, and get more autoimmune diseases, which can affect the eyes.
Evidence suggests that eating right promotes eye health. Be sure your diet includes plenty of red, orange, yellow, and green vegetables and fruits, such as cantaloupe, spinach, sweet potatoes, broccoli, kale, bell peppers, mangoes, and papayas. And yes, carrots. All are rich in antioxidants, such as vitamins A (beta-carotene) and C. One study found that eating spinach lowers the chance of developing macular degeneration. Vitamin E, another antioxidant, is important, too, so include nuts and wheat germ in your diet.
Exercise wards off obesity, thereby reducing the chance of getting diabetes, which can harm eyes. And don’t smoke: It triples the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.
The only time to use vitamins is if you have middle or late-stage macular degeneration. One reason to avoid eye vitamins: High doses of vitamins A and E can accumulate in the body and become toxic; high doses of vitamin A can also cause birth defects and, in smokers, increase the risk of lung cancer.
It’s important to see an eye doctor regularly even if you don’t wear glasses. The right doctor to see is an ophthalmologist, an MD eye specialist. (Optometrists also examine eyes but they aren’t physicians. Opticians only fit glasses and contact lenses.) In addition to checking your glasses and contacts – or determining whether you now need them – your doctor will use an ophthalmoscope to look at your optic nerve and retina, the light-sensitive membrane at the back of the eye that captures images from the lens and cornea. You should also get an eye-pressure test for the most common kind of glaucoma.
Although there is no cure for aging eyes, there are options available. Talk with your doctor about the options you have and also visit an ophthalmologist. They will look at your vision problems and tell you what your best options are.
Remember, I’m not a doctor. I just sound like one.
Take good care of yourself and live the best life possible!
The information included in this column is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.
Glenn Ellis, is a Health Advocacy Communications Specialist. He is the author of Which Doctor?, and is a health columnist and radio commentator who lectures, and is an active media contributor nationally and internationally on health related topics.
His latest book, “Information is the Best Medicine”, was released in, January 2012.
For more good health information, visit: www.glennellis.com
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