Protecting Your Vision As You Age
As you’ve gotten older, you have probably noticed some changes, whether it’s graying hair, wrinkles, a slower metabolism or stiff joints. You may have also noticed changes in your vision. Perhaps you have trouble seeing objects up close, need brighter light to read, or have difficulty adjusting to glare when you go outside on a sunny day.
Most people start to notice subtle differences in their vision after age 40, and these changes typically become more evident in your 50s and beyond. Many of these vision changes are a normal part of the aging process, but there are also eye diseases and conditions that you are at a higher risk for as you age.
One of the most common vision changes is difficulty focusing on close objects. This is called presbyopia, a condition where the lens of the eye becomes less flexible, making it harder to see things up close. Glasses are the solution for many. However, there are also surgical options such as LASIK that are available to correct your vision.
Dry eyes, a condition making it difficult to read or use a computer for long periods, also tends to become more prevalent with age. This occurs when the eye does not produce tears properly. It can be treated with artificial tears for most, although further treatment may be necessary for some people.
Cataracts are another common condition in older people. According to the National Eye Institute, more than 50% of Americans will have a cataract or have had surgery for a cataract by age 80. A cataract is a clouding of the eye lens, which can result in blurred vision and trouble with glare. The good news is that cataract surgery is extremely effective, with most patients experiencing complete sight restoration.
Other more serious eye diseases can result in permanent blindness without proper diagnosis and treatment. These include conditions such as glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic eye disease, which are all leading causes of vision loss.
Although some vision changes are inevitable, there is plenty you can do to help keep your eyes healthy as you age. One of the most important things you can do is get regular eye exams to catch any problems before they become serious. Diseases, such as glaucoma, do not have any symptoms until the late stages, making early detection imperative. A comprehensive eye exam can detect eye disease in the early stages. This process is recommended for everyone 40 years and older, even if you aren’t experiencing any problems with your vision.
How often you should have an eye exam will depend on your risk factors and overall eye health. It is generally recommended to have an exam every two to three years from age 40, and more often if you have a family history of eye disease or risk factors for eye disease. Regular checkups with your general practitioner are also recommended to check for diseases that could cause eye problems.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle will also go a long way to keeping your eyesight strong. Follow these tips for healthy eyes and good vision:
Quit smoking. In addition to the other numerous dangers of smoking, people who smoke are at a higher risk for serious eye diseases such as AMD.
Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables and omega-3 fatty acids found in foods like fish and flaxseed.
Maintain a healthy weight, and get regular exercise. Overweight people have a much higher risk for eye disease than those who maintain a healthy weight. Studies also suggest that frequent exercise can reduce your risk.
Protect your eyes when you are outside. Wear sunglasses that block 100% of harmful ultraviolet light, both UVA and UVB wavelengths. Make sure they wrap around to avoid sun reaching your eyes through the top or sides of the glasses and/or consider wearing a wide-brimmed hat.
Remember the 20/20 rule. When your eyes are focused on a screen like a television, computer or mobile device, make sure you look away every 20 minutes for at least 20 seconds to reduce eye strain and protect your vision.
If you notice any changes in your vision, it is important that you schedule an eye exam as soon as possible. Your ophthalmologist can address any low vision problems and screen for eye diseases and conditions.
The Shreveport Eye Clinic offers full ophthalmology services, including assessment, vision correction, eye disease treatment and specialized eye exams. To learn more about our services or to make an appointment with one of our highly skilled ophthalmologists, visit www.shreveporteyeclinic.com, or call 318-861-4009.
Carol Clemons, MD, Ph.D., is a board-certified ophthalmologist at Shreveport Eye Clinic. She is a member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery. Shreveport Eye Clinic is located at 471 Ashley Ridge Blvd., Suite 300. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 318-861-4009.