There are three eye conditions that pose special risks for seniors; cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration. Some have no early symptoms and can rob sight before the senior knows the disease exists. Others can blur vision, making daily activities difficult to complete and increasing the risk of falls. Comprehensive annual eye exams are essential for the early detection of eye disease and the maintenance of clear vision. Here is what you need to know about the three most common eye diseases for seniors and how to protect against them.
Cataracts occur when the lens of the eye begins to harden, causing cloudy vision. Colors may appear dull and it may be more difficult to tell one color from another. People who have cataracts do notice changes in vision and can seek treatment immediately. Surgery successfully removes cataracts and can clear blurry vision.
Glaucoma is one of the most common eye diseases for people over the age of 64. It is known as the “Silent Thief of Sight” because it has no symptoms in the early stages. It’s estimated that half of people with glaucoma in the United States are unaware they have the disease. The sight lost to glaucoma cannot be restored. However, early detection can lead to treatments that can prevent further damage. A comprehensive annual eye exam is the only way to detect the presence of glaucoma.
Glaucoma occurs when fluid builds up in the eye, damaging the optic nerve. There are two types of glaucoma; one occurs gradually with no pain and no vision changes in the early stages of the disease. The second type of glaucoma occurs suddenly, with the individual experiencing blurry vision, a headache, eye pain or halos around lights. If this occurs it is an emergency and an ophthalmologist should be consulted immediately.
Risk factors for glaucoma include:
- Being older than 40 years of age
- A family history of glaucoma
- Being of African or Hispanic heritage
- Being diagnosed with high eye pressure
- Experiencing an eye injury
- Chronic disease such as diabetes, migraines or poor blood circulation
Age-related Macular Degeneration
Known as AMD, this disease is the leading cause of low vision and blindness in people aged 60 and over in the United States and affects 1.6 million people. It is a progressive eye disease and currently there is no cure.
AMD steals vision by causing cells in the retina to die. This causes blind spots and large gray spots that obscure sight in the central field of vision. Risk factors for AMD include:
- Age 60 or older
- A family history of AMD
- Caucasians have higher risk of developing the disease than people of other races
- Smoking doubles the risk of AMD
Unlike other eye diseases, there are things that seniors can do to decrease the risk of AMD. The most important is to live a healthy lifestyle. The American Macular Degeneration Foundation recommends that seniors adopt the following healthy habits:
- Stop smoking.
- Eat healthy foods like green leafy, vegetables, fish high in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon and albacore tuna, and oils like olive or canola oil.
- Avoid processed foods.
- Exercise and maintain healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and weight.
- Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from potentially harmful ultra-violet (UV) light and blue light.
Eye diseases can result in low vision and/or legal blindness that increase risk and limit daily activities for seniors. Considering that some eye disease have no symptoms, the best defense is a good offense and that means getting comprehensive annual eye exams. When seniors have good vision, they can avoid dangerous falls, live independently longer, and enjoy safe, healthy daily living.
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.