What You Need to Know About Eye Disease in Seniors
Age related eye diseases can result in low vision and legal blindness. They can interfere with the activities of daily living and the ability to drive. It’s estimated that one out of every three people over the age of 65 suffers from some type of eye disease that reduces vision. The most common age-related eye diseases are age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy and dry eye. Many of these eye diseases are progressive and have no symptoms until vision is impaired. If you have a senior loved one who suffers from eye disease, it’s important to encourage him or her to have annual comprehensive eye exams that can detect eye disease.
Age related macular degeneration (AMD)
There are two types of AMD, called “wet” and “dry”. AMD is the leading cause of vision loss in people aged 65 and older. The disease deteriorates the center of the retina that is responsible for center vision. As it progresses, AMD makes it impossible to see objects that lie straight ahead. Risk factors can include age, high blood pressure, smoking and a family history of AMD.
Treatments for AMD can include injections of medication followed by laser treatments. A diet high in fresh, unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil and fish may lower the risk of developing AMD.
Glaucoma is an eye disease that damages the optic nerve and causes vision loss. Glaucoma is one of the most common chronic eye diseases for seniors and is the leading cause of blindness for those over the age of 64. It is estimated that approximately 1 million Americans aged 65 and older suffer from glaucoma and nearly three-quarters of the people who are legally blind because of glaucoma are over the age of 65. Risk factors for glaucoma include being an African American over the age of 40, being of Mexican American descent, and/or having a family history of glaucoma. Other risk factors include age, being diagnosed with high eye pressure, having diabetes, migraines or poor blood circulation. In its early stages, glaucoma has no symptoms. Half the people with glaucoma do not know they have it.
Treatments for glaucoma include eye drops that lower eye pressure and laser surgery to drain fluid from the eye and helping it to work better.
Cataract is the most common cause of blindness around the world. It is most common in those over the age of 65. In fact, the prevalence of cataract in those under the age of 65 is only five percent, but it soars to a rate of 50 percent in those aged 75 and older. Risk factors for cataract include a family history of cataracts, having diabetes, suffering an eye injury or having eye surgery, or spending a lot of time in the sun without sunglasses that protect eyes from the ultraviolet rays of the sun.
Treatments for cataracts include surgery. There are more than one million cataract surgeries performed annually and it is the most common surgical procedure covered by Medicare.
This eye disease is the leading cause of blindness among Americans of middle age. It is one of the most common diabetic eye diseases and occurs when blood vessels in the retina change. When blood sugar levels remain high for a long period of time in diabetics,they can damage the tiny blood vessels, or “capillaries”, in the eyes that provide the retina with blood.
There are no signs or symptoms of diabetic retinopathy. The only way to diagnose it is through a comprehensive eye exam. The main risk factor is diabetes.
The best treatment for diabetic retinopathy is to control diabetes and prevent blood sugar from remaining high for a long period of time. There are other treatments that have some side effects and various levels of success and they include:
- Laser surgery to shrink blood vessels and reduce swelling in the eye.
- Surgery to remove the blood and scar tissue in the eye.
- Medication such as steroids.
This condition occurs when the eye doesn’t produce enough tears. It can make it more difficult to read or use a computer for long periods of time. Risk factors for dry eye include being over the age of 50, being a woman, eating a diet low in vitamin A, and wearing contact lenses. Eye drops, medications to reduce eyelid inflammation and eye inserts that work like artificial tears are some of the treatments that can help to relieve dry eye.
Can these eye diseases be prevented?
Many eye diseases cannot be prevented, however they can be detected by an ophthalmologist during a comprehensive eye exam. If you have a loved one over the age of 65 encourage them to have annual eye exams that include an examination of the back of the eye (dilated eye exam). Because many of these eye diseases have no symptoms, early detection is the best strategy to lead to treatment and slowing the progression of vision loss.
If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation. Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.
Some of the services offered by Family Matter In-Home Care include: Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care, Bed & Wheelchair Transfer Assistance, Companionship, Housekeeping & Meal Preparation, Personal Care, Recovery Care, and Transportation.