AMARILLO Older may mean wiser, but the clearer vision that comes with age and wisdom is only philosophical.
Aging can bring a whole range of vision problems, said Andrew Crocker, Texas Cooperative Extension gerontology health program specialist in Amarillo.
But the news isn’t all bad. “With regular checkups and proper therapy,” he said, “these conditions may be easily identified, treated or slowed.” Some of these more common conditions of older eyes are:
- Cataracts. These painless, cloudy areas in the eye’s lens keep light from reaching the nerves at the back of the eye and thus interfere with vision. Cataracts, although common in older adults, can also develop after injuries or diseases of the eye, or as a result of taking certain medications or developing medical conditions such as diabetes. Treatment may involve strong eyeglass prescriptions or possibly surgery.
- Glaucoma. This condition develops when too much pressure builds up inside the eye. The increase in pressure can damage the optic nerve and, without treatment, eventually cause blindness. Glaucoma can be a hereditary condition, so be sure to be checked for this condition if the other family members have already been diagnosed. Glaucoma can also be caused by injury either chemical or blunt or infection in the eye, blockage of blood vessels and some inflammatory conditions that affect eyes. Currently, glaucoma has no cure but can be treated with prescription drugs or surgery.
- Macular degeneration. Often called “age-related macular degeneration,” this condition is the most common cause of vision loss after age 60. If the macula, the small central portion of the retina, is damaged, the retina can no longer sense light and vision is impaired. Macular degeneration is often symptomless and goes undetected until both eyes are affected; the first sign is often a visual distortion of straight lines. Treatment ranges from therapy to medications to laser surgery, but none of the treatments can completely restore vision already lost.
- Diabetic retinopathy. High blood sugar over a long period of time can affect vision by destroying blood vessels in the back of the eye and damaging the retina. People with diabetes need to have regular eye exams to check for this condition. Treatment may involve laser surgery, but vision already lost can’t be restored. However, further damage may be stopped.
- Low vision. This condition can be caused by health conditions or the natural aging process. Low vision can’t be completely fixed with eyeglasses, contact lenses, drugs or surgery, but aids such as adjusted lighting, large print and magnifiers can help with daily life. The Texas Commission for the Blind can provide helpful information and referrals call (800) 252-5204 or visit the Web at http://www.tcb.state.tx.us/ In addition, Crocker said, “Some studies are now showing the benefit of certain nutrients from foods in improving eye health. Ask your health care provider about these new dietary recommendations.” And remember, the best defense is a good offense in eye care. Get regular eye examinations by a trained professional.
“Talk to your health care provider if you would like more information about conditions that may affect the eye or would like a referral to see an eye doctor,” Crocker said. “Early detection of most of these conditions is key since current treatment methods … can only slow further progression, not undo damage.”
To see what the listed eye conditions look like, visit Extension’s family and consumer Web site at http://fcs.tamu.edu/aging/vision.htm.