According to the Census Bureau, there are currently 54 million adults 65 years of age and older, and that number is expected to grow to 80 million by 2040. Likewise, the number of older people with vision loss is expected to double by 2050. This is why it is important to focus on overall health care for this growing population, including comprehensive eye and vision care.
While older adults are at higher risk for eye diseases like age-related macular degeneration (AMD), getting older does not necessarily mean vision loss is imminent. Implementing some healthy changes can help slow or prevent vision loss in older adults and support overall healthy aging.
As you schedule your annual health visits, don’t forget about your eye exam! A comprehensive dilated eye exam is different from the basic eye exam or screening you have for glasses or contacts. During a comprehensive exam, your eye care professional will dilate your pupils and examine your eye in detail. By doing this, they can often detect eye diseases in their early stages, before vision loss occurs. Through a comprehensive dilated eye exam, your eye doctor can check for early signs of the following:
- Age-related macular degeneration, which gradually destroys the macula, the part of the eye that provides sharp, central vision.
- Cataract, a clouding of the lens in the eye.
- Diabetic retinopathy, a complication of diabetes that damages blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye.
- Glaucoma, a group of diseases that can cause fluid and pressure to build up in the eye and damage the optic nerve.
- Dry Eye, which occurs when your eyes don’t make enough tears to stay wet, or when your tears don’t work correctly. This can make your eyes feel uncomfortable, and in some cases, it can also cause vision problems.
Early diagnosis and treatment are the best ways to prevent vision loss. If you have been diagnosed with an eye disease or condition, work with your eye care professional to learn about your treatment options.
There are also several preventative ways to support overall eye health, including:
Continuing your healthy diet: Specifically for your eye health, eating the right foods can prevent age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), a gradual deterioration of the eye’s macula. The macula is the central portion of the retina – the photosensitive layer of cells in the back of the eye responsible for sight – which allows us to see fine details. Nutrients like lutein, zeaxanthin, and omega 3 fatty acids are specifically protective of the macula; think orange and yellow vegetables like sweet potato and squash for foods high in lutein; dark leafy greens like spinach and kale for zeaxanthin; fish and nuts for omega-three fatty acids.
Wear sunglasses: Macular degeneration can also be caused by sun exposure. You’re taught to slather sunscreen on your skin to protect it from sunburns, cancer, and signs of aging, such as wrinkles and moles. However, your corneas – which can be considered the “skin” covering your eye – can also experience sunburn, discolorations, and growths from sun exposure. To protect your eyes from sun damage, make sure you’re wearing sunglasses that offer 100% protection from UV rays.
Reduce screen time: Overuse of digital devices is just as harmful to adults as it is to children. Too much screen time can also lead to chronic neck and back pain – another thing that doesn’t get better with age – because of poor posture while using devices. Embrace the 20-20-20 Rule by taking a break every 20 minutes, and standing up and looking 20 feet away for a minimum of 20 seconds.
Get enough sleep: As we age, we start looking in the mirror and noticing the bags under our eyes getting heavier, crows feet getting deeper, and our eyelids are getting…droopier? A droopy eyelid can be nothing more than the result of a sleepless night spent tossing and turning, easily fixed with a cold spoon or jade roller. However, if you’re getting plenty of beauty sleep and still wake up to droopy eyelids, it could be dermatochalasis, a bilateral eyelid drooping caused by aging, or something more dangerous.
Keeping up with your annual eye exams and making regular visits to the ophthalmologist can help you identify any potential issues and support your overall health. Our team of professionals has extensive experience with age-related eye conditions, and we are happy to help discuss any eye care concerns. Call us or visit our website to schedule your appointment today!
“September is Healthy Aging Month” https://glaucoma.org/september-is-healthy-aging-month-tips-for-healthy-vision/