As we get older, our bodies experience many physical changes, and our vision is no exception. Age-related eye problems can affect a senior’s quality of life, lead to loss of independence and increase the risk of injuries and falls. In honor of Vision Health Month this May, here are some simple precautions older adults can take to maintain optimum eye health in their senior years.
Types of Vision Loss for Seniors
Since many eye diseases are age-related, seniors have a much higher risk of developing conditions that, without treatment, can lead to poor eye health or even blindness. Common age-related eye problems include:
Glaucoma: Increased pressure in the eye from fluid build-up can lead to permanent vision loss. It often affects both eyes and has no obvious symptoms until there is a significant loss of side vision.
Cataracts: Vision is restricted when the lens of the eye clouds up. Cataracts can cause blurry vision, decreased contrast sensitivity, decreased ability to see under low light level conditions and dulling of colors.
Macular Degeneration: When the retina is damaged it causes problems to the central vision. The macula is the part of the retina that allows us to see fine detail and colors for activities like watching TV, driving and reading.
Diabetic Retinopathy: Blood vessels within the eye become damaged due to high blood sugar which can lead to severe vision loss or blindness. The longer a person has diabetes, the greater the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy.
Simple Ways to Maintain Eye Health
By maintaining healthy habits for your aging eyes, older adults have a better chance of detecting certain eye conditions early on and safeguarding their vision as they age. It’s never too early to start taking care of your vision to help maintain good eye health now and in the future.
Eat a healthy balanced diet
Healthy eating habits may help slow the progress of age-related eye diseases. Incorporate foods into your diet, like leafy greens, fish and citrus fruits, that are nutrient-dense and high in antioxidants to help prevent vision problems like macular degeneration and cataracts.
Protect your eyes from the sun
Always wear sunglasses when you are outdoors or driving to protect your eyes from damage caused by UV rays. Too much ultraviolet radiation can harm your eyes and contribute to the formation of cataracts.
Rest your eyes
In this digital age, chances are you or your older loved one spend a lot of time staring at a television, phone or computer. Remember to take short breaks any time you are looking at a screen for periods of time to relieve stress and fatigue on the eyes.
Manage your diabetes
If you have diabetes you are at a higher risk for diabetic retinopathy. Managing your diabetes by getting your blood sugar under control is an important part of maintaining healthy eyes.
Smoking affects more than just your lungs and heart; it can also affect your eyes. If you smoke, make a plan to quit. Cigarettes increase the risk for developing cataracts and macular degeneration.
Get regular eye exams
One of the biggest preventive measures you can take is scheduling annual exams with your eye doctor. During a routine eye exam, your doctor can test your vision, check for glaucoma, make sure your prescription is up-to-date and ensure problems are treated as soon as they arise to avoid serious vision issues.
It’s common to experience changes to your vision in your senior years. The good news, however, is that by taking care of your eyes now, these changes don’t have to have a major impact on your daily life. Making smart lifestyle choices, getting regular eye exams and early detection of disease can help you safeguard your vision as you age.