As we age, even people who do not have age-related eye diseases and who have good visual acuity may experience vision changes. Presbyopia, which begins in the late 30s or early 40s, usually continues to increase over time.
Such problems in adjusting to light and dark can make driving more difficult, especially at night or in the rain. Driving may be even more challenging for people with eye diseases that reduce their peripheral (side) vision or increase their sensitivity to glare. To be on the safe side, the National Traffic Safety Administration recommends that elders take a driving course designed specifically for seniors, drive during daylight hours, reduce speed and be extra-cautious at intersections.
Women are more likely than men to have glaucoma and women are also more likely to be visually impaired or blind due to glaucoma. Also, women are 24 percent less likely to be treated for glaucoma. Cataract is somewhat more common in women, as well.
Women should be sure to follow the Academy’s screening guidelines and adhere to their ophthalmologist’s follow-up appointment recommendations and treatment plans.
The term low vision describes vision loss that makes daily tasks difficult. Normal aging of the eye does not lead to low vision; it is a result of eye diseases, injuries or both. Low vision symptoms include loss of central and/or peripheral (side) vision, blurred or hazy vision or night blindness.
A person may have trouble recognizing faces, reading, driving and shopping. If you experience any of these problems, it is important to see your ophthalmologist, who will check for and treat any underlying conditions and advise on low vision resources and low vision aids and devices to help with reading and other daily tasks. Most people with low vision need brighter lighting in their living areas.
Avoid Falls and Related Eye Injuries
About half of all eye injuries occur in or around the home, most often during improvement projects (44 percent). The good news is that nearly all eye injuries can be prevented by using protective eyewear, so every household needs to have at least one pair of certified safety glasses on hand.
It’s also important to reduce the risk of falls, which become more likely as we age, due to changes in vision and balance. Consider taking these safety steps around the home to diminish the risks of injuring your eyes:
Systemic health problems like high blood pressure and diabetes that may be diagnosed or become more problematic in midlife can also affect eye health. One warning sign of both high blood pressure and diabetes is when the ability to see clearly changes frequently. Be sure to keep your ophthalmologist informed about your health conditions and use of medications and nutritional supplements, as well as your exercise, eating, sleeping and other lifestyle choices.
Our eyes need good blood circulation and oxygen intake, and both are stimulated by regular exercise. Regular exercise also helps keep our weight in the normal range, which reduces the risk of diabetes and of diabetic retinopathy. Gentler exercise, including walking, yoga, tai chi, or stretching and breathing, can also be effective ways to keep healthy. Remember to use sun safety and protective eyewear when enjoying sports and recreation.
As we sleep, our eyes enjoy continuous lubrication. Also during sleep the eyes clear out irritants such as dust, allergens, or smoke that may have accumulated during the day.
Some research suggests that light-sensitive cells in the eye are important to our ability to regulate our wake-sleep cycles. This becomes more crucial as we age, when more people have problems with insomnia. While it’s important that we protect our eyes from over-exposure to UV light, our eyes also need exposure to some natural light every day to help maintain normal sleep-wake cycles.
Because our eyesight changes as we get older, almost all of us will need to wear glasses or contact lenses by the time we’re 65.
If you have regular eye tests, wear the right lenses and look after your eyes, there’s a better chance your sight will remain clear.
An eye test is not just good for checking whether your glasses are up-to-date. It’s also a vital check on the health of your eyes.
An eye test can pick up eye diseases, such as glaucoma and cataracts, as well as general health problems, including diabetes and high blood pressure.
The good news is that if you’re 60 or over, you can have a free NHS eye (sight) test as often as you need one.
to find out more about eye tests.
An eye test will establish whether you need a different prescription for your glasses or contact lenses.
It’s important to wear the correct prescription lenses. This will improve your quality of life and reduce the risk of accidents such as falls.
You may be entitled to help with the cost of NHS glasses or contact lenses, so ask your optician about this.
As well as having regular eye tests and wearing the correct glasses, there are several things to keep your eyes as healthy as possible.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet is important for your eyes.
Eating plenty of vegetables and fruit will benefit your overall health and may help protect against some conditions, such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Strong sunlight can damage your eyes and may increase your risk of cataracts. Wear sunglasses or contact lenses with a built-in UV filter to protect your eyes from harmful rays.
Smoking can increase your chances of developing conditions such as cataracts and AMD.
Stay a healthy weight
Being overweight increases your risk of diabetes, which can lead to sight loss.
Use good lighting
Good circulation and oxygen intake are important for our eye health. Both of these are stimulated by regular exercise.
As you sleep, your eyes are continuously lubricated and irritants, such as dust or smoke, that may have accumulated during the day are cleared out.
As you get older, you become more likely to get certain eye problems.
Eye muscles start to weaken from the age of 45. It’s a natural ageing process of the eye that happens to us all.
By the time you’re 60, you’ll probably need separate reading glasses or an addition to your prescription lenses (bifocals or varifocals).
Floaters, which are tiny specks or spots that float across your vision, are normally harmless.
If they persist, see an optician as they may be a sign of an underlying health condition.
Easily detected in an eye test, this gradual clouding of the eye’s lens is extremely common in over-60s. A simple operation can restore sight.
Glaucoma is related to an increase in pressure in the eye that leads to damage of the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain.
Left untreated, glaucoma leads to tunnel vision and, ultimately, blindness.
But if it’s detected early enough, these complications can usually be avoided with eye drops.
Macular degeneration is a disease of the retina caused by ageing. The retina is the nerve tissue lining the back of your eye.
There are 2 types of macular degeneration.
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