Eye Care in Seniors


As we get older, we may start to notice a change in our vision. It may be that you start wearing glasses to read your favorite book or perhaps you've developed a sensitivity to light and glare. Whatever the changes may be, it's good to know the effects on vision caused by aging, and how we can prevent or manage serious eye diseases.


Changes in Vision

Some changes to vision that you may experience as you age, are:

  • Difficulty reading small print;

  • Taking longer to adjust from light to dark;

  • More sensitivity to glare from sunlight or unshielded light bulbs;

  • Loss of depth perception, which makes it difficult to judge distances;

  • Difficulty in seeing contrasts and colour;

  • Dry eyes; and

  • Tearing or watery eyes.

These changes may seem minor and/or temporary, but getting regular vision and eye care exams will help to detect any problems and prevent further damage.


Symptoms of Vision Loss


Some signs of vision loss or deterioration may include:

  • Squinting and/or a greater sensitivity to light;

  • Choosing bright over dull coloured objects or clothing;

  • Misjudging where items are/depth perception changes;

  • Difficulty threading a needle or buttoning a shirt;

  • Seeing flashes of light or rapid movement from the corners of your eyes;

  • Having difficulties with driving at night;

  • Experiencing uncontrolled eye movement; and

  • Falling because of a missed step or an unseen object on the floor.


Serious Eye Conditions


Beyond the signs and symptoms listed above, there are serious eye diseases and conditions that can also affect your vision.


Cataracts - Cataracts are a gradual clouding of the natural lens of the eye, preventing light from reaching the retina. This condition may prevent you from being able to read or drive. Surgery may be required to remove the cataract and are highly successful.


Glaucoma - Glaucoma develops when the pressure within the eye starts to destroy the nerve fibres within the retina. If not treated early, glaucoma can cause vision loss and blindness. Treatment may include eye drops, medication, or surgery.


Diabetic Retinopathy

This condition appears directly linked to diabetes. Changes to the blood vessels caused by diabetes can starve the retina of oxygen. This condition can go through many stages and can result in blindness. Symptoms include cloudy vision and seeing spots. If you have diabetes, be sure to have regular eye examinations and tell your eye specialist that you are diabetic. Treatment can slow down vision loss. Laser treatment in the early stages is often successful.


Prevention


According to Health Canada, the following are some ways that you can help to prevent eye damage and improve eye health.


If you are over the age of 45, have your eyes examined on a regular basis.

Don't smoke. Smoking tobacco is a major risk factor in the early onset of age-related macular degeneration.

  • If you suffer from dry eyes (gritty, itchy, or burning), a home humidifier and eye drops may help. In a few serious cases, surgery may be needed to correct the problem.

  • If your eyes water, it may be that you are more sensitive to light, wind, or temperature change. Simply shielding your eyes or wearing sunglasses may solve the problem. However, this condition may be the result of an eye infection, eye irritation, or a blocked tear duct, all of which can be treated. See your doctor to find out the exact cause and treatment.

  • Turn on the lights. Seeing better can sometimes be as easy as changing a light bulb to one with a higher wattage. Putting 100 or 150 watt bulbs in your lamps can reduce eye strain. Just make sure the fixture is designed for that wattage. Bright light is important in stairways to help prevent falls.

  • Eat your carrots. A daily dose of the vitamins and minerals found in melons, citrus fruit, carrots, spinach, and kale may help slow the progress of age-related eye diseases such as macular degeneration, glaucoma, and cataracts.

  • Don't drive at night if you have problems with depth perception, glare, or other vision difficulties.


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