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Eye Health For Seniors: Getting Eye Exams to Maintain Visual Acuity

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Most people know that it is important to take care of their vision. However, sometimes it is hard for them to know how best to accomplish this. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) notes that 61 million Americans over age 40 are at increased risk for vision loss, but only half of them saw an eye doctor in the past year. Vision loss is a common problem as people get older, but most of the conditions causing it are quite treatable in the early stages. With regular, comprehensive eye exams and prompt treatment of vision problems, adults will maintain better vision as they age.

Age 40: The Starting Point of Vision Loss

Modern convention may treat age 40 as significantly younger than it may have seemed in decades past. However, experts still see this age as the starting point for many age-related vision problems. For example, presbyopia, a natural farsightedness that occurs as a result of low elasticity of the eye’s lens, commonly begins around age 40. People at a higher risk for cataracts, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy also may start to observe increased vision loss at around this age. It is for this reason that the National Eye Institute (NEI) recommends that adults start seeking comprehensive eye exams more frequently after age 40.

When to Get Comprehensive Eye Exams for Seniors

Experts suggest getting a comprehensive eye exam about once every two years, depending on a person’s general health and likelihood of risk factors. People who:

  • have diabetes
  • smoke
  • spend a lot of time in the sun
  • have a family history of age-related vision loss
  • work in certain types of occupations that present eye hazards
  • take medications for cholesterol, thyroid, anxiety or depression

may need to have eye exams once a year or even more often. During this exam, the doctor dilates the eyes to get an accurate look at the retina and the crystalline lens. This is a good opportunity to discuss vision problems or concerns about general eye health. If vision loss is obvious, the doctor may then develop an accurate prescription for glasses or contact lenses. Any diagnoses for the typical causes of senior vision loss are discussed, with treatment and plans to manage the condition’s development over time.Vision Loss and Aging

Although many vision problems can occur at any age, most of them become more frequent and severe as people get older. For example, about 10 percent of Americans are diagnosed with cataracts in their 50s. By the time they reach age 80, the number of people with cataracts rises to 60-70 percent. In fact, the likelihood of blindness from various causes rises dramatically over age 75. With regular, comprehensive eye exams, people are able to discover problems on the horizon much earlier, and make a plan with their doctors to treat or manage the condition. Common Vision Problems in Later Adulthood

Vision loss for seniors is a serious problem.

  • Over 20 million Americans over age 40 have cataracts
  • 1.6 million Americans suffer from AMD
  • 5.3 million have diabetic retinopathy and 2.2 million suffer from glaucoma.

These conditions are often slow-moving, which means that people who develop them may not realize they have a problem until the condition is significantly advanced. Cataracts stem from the clouding of the eye’s natural lens. AMD describes damage to the macula, a portion of the retina responsible for central vision. In diabetic retinopathy, the diabetes affects the blood vessels of the retina, causing vision loss or blindness. Glaucoma is a rise in pressure in the eye from fluid, which can injure the optic nerve.Warning Signs of Vision Problems

Clearly, tens of millions of Americans are at risk for developing these common eye conditions, among other signs of vision loss. However, many people do not seek treatment until their vision is significantly impaired. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial. Optometrists can discover problems during a routine exam, but adults over 40 should also pay special attention to some of the more common warning signs. They include:

  • difficulty reading or seeing other objects that are close
  • blurry vision
  • visual disturbances, such as floaters or blank spots in vision
  • the need for brighter light
  • sensitivity to bright light or glare
  • problems driving at night
  • inability to distinguish between different shades of one color
  • dry eye symptoms

Anyone who suffers from one or more of these symptoms for more than a few days should consult a qualified optometrist or ophthalmologist for a comprehensive eye exam.

Getting older can mean a greater likelihood of vision loss, but people do not have to suffer alone. At the Sealy Eye Center, we are ready to help address all of your eye health concerns. Contact us at (888) 701-0487 to schedule a comprehensive eye exam, or request an appointment online.