The Aging Eye
As we age and change, so too, do our eyes. Annual wellness exams and screenings are to the body as routine eye exams are to overall eye health; when problems are diagnosed early, we have more treatment options and better outcomes.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends “a baseline eye examination at age 40, the time when early signs of disease or changes in vision may occur.” However, “if you have an eye disease or if you have a risk factor for developing one, such as diabetes, high blood pressure or a family history of eye disease, you should see an ophthalmologist even if you are younger than 40.”
There are three common disease states of the eye that are of heightened concern as we grow older.
1. Cataracts is a condition that causes the lens of the eye to become progressively cloudy. People in their 40s and 50s may have cataract changes, but it is usually around age 60 or older that they might begin to affect a person’s vision. Common symptoms include cloudy, blurry or faded vision, glare, frequent eyeglass prescription change, or double vision. Often these develop slowly overtime, with increasingly impaired vision. People often describe it as looking through a fogged-up window.
2. Age-related macular degeneration, another common eye condition is the thinning or deterioration of the macula, the area of the eye that controls the sharpness of your vision. There are two types, one that is a progressive disease that results in a slow, painless loss of vision, and another that can result in sudden loss of vision. We find this disease is more common in Caucasians, people with blue eyes, females, and those with a family history of AMD. Smoking, poor diet, obesity, and sedentary lifestyle are modifiable risk factors. Symptoms include central dark spots, blurriness, or wavy lines.
3. Glaucoma is known as the silent vision thief. Symptoms often going unnoticed until later stages of the disease. Routine eye exams can detect this disease in the earlier stages, and early treatment can delay progression to severe disease.
To maintain eye health, we recommend routine eye exams, drinking plenty of water, wearing sunglasses, abstaining from smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, exercising, and maintaining a healthy weight. It is also very important to control blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugars and eat foods rich in antioxidants, like green leafy vegetables.
If you have any concerns about your eyes or vision, it is important to not ignore what you are experiencing. Any changes in vision is reason to consult with a specialist. If you have sudden vision loss, eye trauma, flashes or floaters that do don’t stop, eye pain, or a sudden headache, contact a doctor right away.
Talk with your eye care professional to get an appropriate diagnosis and to determine a course of treatment that is best for you. There are some exciting new technologies in eye care treatments.
To reach Pocatello Eye Center, call 208-234-4100. To find another type of physician, please visit portnuef.org.