Aging Eye Facts Health Coaching Session February, 2022 Quality Life Forum Learning Series
Normal Aging Vision Changes
Vision changes occur as you get older, but these changes don't have to affect your lifestyle. Knowing what to expect and when to seek professional care can help you safeguard your vision. As you reach your 60s and beyond, you need to be aware of the warning signs of age-related eye health problems that could cause vision loss.
Many eye diseases have no early symptoms. They may develop painlessly, and you may not notice the changes to your vision until the condition is quite advanced. Healthy lifestyle choices, regular eye exams and early detection of disease can significantly improve your chances of maintaining good eye health and vision as you age.
If you are 60 or older, driving may be more challenging. Age-related vision changes and eye conditions may increase driving risks, as you may not even aware of any symptoms. Some age-related vision changes that commonly affect seniors' driving including:
Not being able to see road signs as clearly.
Difficulty seeing objects up close, like the car instrument panel or road maps.
Difficulty judging distances and speed.
Changes in color perception.
Problems seeing in low light or at night.
Difficulty adapting to bright sunlight or glare from headlights.
Experiencing a loss of side vision.
These tips can help you drive safely, especially at night:
Use extra caution at intersections. Many collisions involving older drivers occur at intersections due to a failure to yield, especially when taking a left turn. Look carefully in both directions before proceeding into an intersection. Turn your head frequently when driving to compensate for any decreased peripheral vision.
Slow down or avoid driving at night, if you are having trouble seeing at night or your eyes have difficulty recovering from the glare of oncoming headlights. Reduce your speed and limit yourself to daytime driving.
Avoid wearing eyeglasses and sunglasses with wide frames or temples. Glasses with wide temples (side arms) may restrict your side vision.
Avoid driving during sunrise or sunset, or when the sun can be directly in your line of vision. The glares coming from the sun can disturb or strike the weakened pupils of older adults and make it difficult for them to see the road clearly, which increases the risk of an accident.
Age-related Eye Diseases may Result in Vision Loss
Actual vision loss is not a normal part of aging, but the risk everyone faces is that as you age, you are at higher risk of developing age-related eye conditions and diseases. The leading causes of vision loss older adults include:
Age-related macular degeneration, also called AMD, is the deterioration of the center of the retina called the macula. The macula is the part of the retina which is responsible for our central vision and our ability to see color and fine detail when looking directly at an object.
In the early stages of AMD, there is little or no vision loss. As the disease advances, images can become blurred, distorted, or a dark or empty area can appear in the center of the vision. AMD does not cause total blindness because side vision is not affected.
Glaucoma is a group of diseases that cause damage to the optic nerve. The optic nerve is the part of the eye that carries visual information to our brain, where images are formed.
It was once thought that elevated pressure inside of the eye was the main cause of optic nerve damage. Although elevated pressure is clearly a risk factor, we now know that other factors must also be involved because even people with “normal” pressure can experience vision loss from glaucoma.
A cataract is a thickening and hardening of the lens in the eye. As the lens in your eye thickens, the naturally transparent lens becomes clouded or opaque.
In its early stages, a cataract may not cause a problem; the cloudiness may affect only a small part of the lens. However, as the cataract grows larger it prevents light from reaching your retina. As less light reaches your retina, it becomes increasingly difficult to see and vision may become dull and blurry.
According to NIH, by age 75, more than half of us will have had cataract. Some cataracts stay small and have little effect on eyesight, but others become large and interfere with vision. Symptoms include blurriness, difficulty seeing well at night, lights that seem too bright and faded color vision. There are no specific steps to prevent cataracts, but tobacco use and exposure to sunlight raise your risk of developing it. Cataract surgery is a safe and common treatment that can restore good vision.
New findings from clinical study suggests that cataract extraction is associated with lower risk of developing dementia among older adults
In this cohort study assessing 3038 adults 65 years of age or older with cataract enrolled in the Adult Changes in Thought study, participants who underwent cataract extraction had lower risk of developing dementia than those who did not have cataract surgery after controlling for numerous additional risks. In comparison, risk of dementia did not differ between participants who did or did not undergo glaucoma surgery, which does not restore vision.
It concluded that cataract extraction was significantly associated with lower risk of dementia development. If validated in future studies, cataract surgery may have clinical relevance in older adults at risk of developing dementia.
Regular comprehensive eye exam is essential
A comprehensive eye exam is recommended at least annually for age 65 and older by the AOA. It is more than a visual acuity check for glasses purpose.
A comprehensive adult eye examination includes:
Patient and family health history.
Visual acuity measurement.
Preliminary tests of visual function and eye health, including depth perception, color vision, peripheral (side) vision and the response of the pupils to light.
Assessment of refractive status to determine the presence of nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism.
Evaluation of eye focusing, eye teaming and eye movement abilities.
Eye health examination.
Additional tests as needed.
Having a complete eye exam with an eye doctor is important because most eye diseases can be treated if they are found early. The doctor will also test your eyesight and check for glaucoma. Pupil dilation will enable your eye doctor to get a clear view of the optic nerve and check for early signs of eye disease.
Choosing an eye doctor (Ophthalmologist vs. optometrist): in short, Ophthalmologist and optometrist both can prescribe medications and treat eye diseases. Optometrists can handle nearly all the medical aspects of ophthalmology. But they do not perform surgery. Ophthalmologists are surgeons and can treat your medical needs as well. If you have a serious condition, such as severe macular degeneration or cataract, you’ll typically see a specialist (ophthalmologist). If you don’t have any serious eye problems, the choice is really up to you.
Eyesight is the most precious gift of life. Make eye health a priority and take actions for proactive eye care. Everyone faces aging challenges. Contact Qualitylifeforum@outlook.com for help and support of your health needs.
Disclaimer: This information is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not medical advice. Consult your healthcare professional for personal conditions.
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