Eye Disease in Seniors: Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment

As seniors age, eye diseases become much more common. Issues with vision – such as low vision, cataracts, glaucoma or macular degeneration – increase dramatically the more seniors age. According to AARP’s article titled the 3 Eye Diseases of Aging, out of those over the age of 50, more than 2 million have age-related macular degeneration. The article also states that out of those 40 and over, about 25 million people have cataracts and more than 2.5 million have glaucoma. Many of these eye diseases seemingly come out of the blue, so it is important to know who is at risk, what the signs of low vision are and what can be done to either prevent it or treat it.

According to Diane Reier, Lifestyle Specialist at Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights, a senior living community in Prospect Heights, IL., low vision is not in the same league as a normal vision issue, such as needing glasses. “Usually, when seniors experience vision loss, it can be corrected with glasses or contacts,” says Diane. “Low vision is different in the way that it is caused by a health condition such as macular degeneration, cataracts or glaucoma. Other diseases, such as diabetes, can also affect vision. These are less easy to correct, and some are irreversible. This is why it is important for seniors to keep up with eye exams and take action to protect their vision the best they can.”

AARP and the National Eye Institute (NEI) provide a wide range of information that can help seniors and their loved ones to better understand the common eye diseases that affect seniors as they age. According to AARP, the most common eye diseases are macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma. Each is different and affects seniors in a variety of ways. In order to help you and your loved one better understand them, we’ve broken them down below.

Common Vision Issues of Aging

Macular Degeneration. According to the NIH, age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of loss of vision among seniors; however, it can also be one of the slowest to advance depending on various circumstances. The article states that macular degeneration causes central vision to be interrupted by a small spot that has formed on the retina. This small spot makes it harder to see objects that are straight ahead, interrupting vision significantly as the blurred area can expand over time. This is one of the main reasons it is important to have your vision tested regularly.

In the early stages, macular degeneration has no treatment options. This is because many people often show no symptoms of loss of vision. Seniors should, however, get their eyes examined every year to track advancement. As macular degeneration begins to progress, there may be some high-dose vitamins and minerals that could allow for the disease to slow, according to the NEI. Different therapies can also help to slow progression. These include injections, laser surgery and photodynamic therapy.

Cataracts. Caused by clumped proteins that cloud over the lens of the eye, cataracts reduce the sharpness of images and tint vision to a brownish shade, according to the NEI. This can affect a senior’s ability to identify blue and purple tones. Signs of cataracts include cloudy vision, faded colors, glares, bad night vision and double vision.

Cataracts are often left alone until they affect everyday activities such as driving or reading, it is then that surgery may be considered. According to the NEI, cataract removal surgery is one of the most common and safest surgeries performed in the United States, and in 90% of cases, allows people to have better vision afterwards.

Glaucoma. If detected and treated early, glaucoma can be kept from damaging vision seriously. If glaucoma remains untreated, it can destroy peripheral vision and cause tunnel vision. According to the NEI, this continues until it spreads to the central vision and causes a complete loss of vision.

Glaucoma is incurable and vision is unable to be restored after it is lost. Medications, such as pills or eye drops, are available to prevent glaucoma from spreading. Laser trabeculoplasty or other forms of surgery are also an option to help drain the fluid from the eye that causes glaucoma. In order to slow the progression of glaucoma, be sure to take medication every day and get your eyes examined each year.

How Can Vision Issues Be Prevented?

“One of the best things people can do to prevent low vision is to avoid smoking and to eat healthy, nutritious meals,” says Diane. “By keeping a healthy weight and managing blood pressure and cholesterol, some of the common diseases affecting seniors’ vision can be prevented. Try to eat leafy green vegetables and fish, and put an exercise plan into place.”

Aside from keeping your body healthy by diet and exercise, be sure to get your eyes examined regularly. The frequency of eye exams changes as age increases; however, your eye doctor can prescribe the right eye appointment schedule to fit your needs. Remember, the sooner a problem is found, the easier it is to manage.

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Live Well. Age Well. Be Well.

Offering Independent, Assisted Living and A Knew Day Memory Support, Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights is a distinctive senior living community designed to offer seniors residing in the Chicago Northwest Suburbs area a fresh alternative to “typical” senior living communities.

Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights provides residents with the ideal balance of personalized support, dignified privacy and enhanced independence complemented by luxurious amenities and our life-enriching, award-winning VIVA!SM programming by Pathway to Living®.

Managed by Pathway to Living®, an innovator in senior living, Aspired Living® offers the choice of a private studio or a one- or two-bedroom apartment and the beauty of a brand new community, stunningly appointed and decorated for unsurpassed comfort and style by the award-winning senior living design firm, Thoma-Holec Design, Inc.

For more information, please call Diane or Janette, Lifestyle Specialists, at 847-243-6920.

Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.