Regular eye exams are essential for good health, but especially
important for senior citizens because age is a risk factor for
several eye diseases. One in three Americans by the age of 65 will
have a vision-impairing eye disease, according to the American
Academy of Ophthalmology.
We recommend an eye exam every year or two for people over the
age of 65, and every two to four years for people between the ages
of 40 and 65. The earlier we can discover most eye conditions and
begin treatment, the better chance we have to preserve good
Other risk factors include diabetes, family history, sun
exposure, smoking, obesity, high blood pressure and previous eye
injury or disease. Here is a review of three of the most common eye
diseases among senior citizens.
Cataracts - A cataract is a clouding of the eye's
lens that leads to blurry vision. Many people compare seeing with
cataracts to looking through a dirty windshield. Other symptoms may
include poor night vision, sensitivity to light and glare, seeing
halos around light, frequent changes in contact lens or eyeglass
prescription, and the need for brighter light to read.
By the age of 75, 70 percent of Americans have cataracts. A
change in your eyeglass prescription may be all you need for a
while. But if your vision becomes very blurry, you many want to
consider surgery to replace the natural lens with a clear implant.
Surgery is our only treatment option and is successful 95 percent
of the time.
Glaucoma - Glaucoma is characterized by
unusually high pressure within the eyeball that can lead to damage
of the optic nerve and loss of vision. Symptoms can include gradual
loss of peripheral vision; tunnel vision; pain; sudden, severe
blurring; redness in the eye; and nausea or vomiting. Regular
screenings are especially important because glaucoma often
progresses without warning signs.
Among the risk factors are elevated internal eye pressures, age,
family history, nearsightedness and other eye conditions or medical
conditions. Although there is no cure for glaucoma, treatments such
as eye drops, oral medications and even surgery can reduce the
pressure inside the eye to minimize nerve damage and limit vision
loss. If you have a family history of glaucoma, we recommend an
Age-related macular degeneration - This is a
deterioration of a small part of the retina that is responsible for
your central "straight ahead" vision and the ability to clearly see
fine detail. Symptoms include blurriness, distortion in the central
vision and difficulty reading fine print or discerning other
details. Age and family history appear to be the most important
risk factors. Other risk factors include race (white), gender
(female), smoking, obesity, high blood pressure and poor diet.
There are two types: dry and wet. The dry form is the most
common and caused by aging and thinning of the macular tissue. The
wet form is more severe and affects about 10 percent of patients.
It is caused by abnormal blood vessels leaking fluid that
interferes with central vision. Regular eye exams can help detect
problems before patients begin to experience symptoms.
Several treatments of wet macular degeneration can reduce the
risk of severe vision loss. While there is no proven treatment for
dry macular degeneration, it rarely results in total vision loss.
Studies have shown that antioxidant vitamins and zinc can reduce
the impact or slow the progression of dry macular
The American Academy of Ophthalmology has one of the best web
sites about eye health at www.geteyesmart.org.
By: Dr.John Stechschulte, an ophthalmologist with Arena Eye
Surgeons and an active member of the OhioHealth Grady Memorial
Hospital medical staff