Every decade that we live through brings changes. With age comes wisdom, a sense of self, a confidence in who we are and what we want. We find new joys in life, such as becoming grandparents or having more free time to explore or enjoy hobbies. On the other hand, we may worry about retirement, financial security for our future, and our health. As we enter our 60s, we are presented with new challenges to stay healthy and at our best physically, mentally and emotionally. We often need to change the way we eat, exercise, and socialize to adapt to the changes in our bodies as we age. As we all know, aging increases our risk of developing many diseases and health problems.
One important issue that cannot be ignored as we age is our eye health. There are many age-related eye diseases, such as cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, vision loss, dry eye, diabetic retinopathy, presbyopia, melanoma in the eye, and retinal tears or detachments. In our younger years we might have gotten away with eye exams every few years because, frankly, many eye conditions don’t typically affect young people. But once we hit our 60s, it’s imperative to have annual comprehensive eye exams. Not only can ophthalmologists identify and address current problems, but they can also track eye health over time. This enables early detection and treatment of many diseases, sometimes even before symptoms appear. Let’s briefly discuss some of the most common age-related eye diseases.
Age-related macular degeneration
AMD is an eye disease that causes loss of vision in the center of the visual field. For people over 60, it is the leading cause of permanent and severe vision loss, and it usually gets worse over time. While it doesn’t cause total blindness, it can severely affect your ability to complete daily tasks. Risk factors include genetics, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity; Lifestyle changes such as not smoking, monitoring blood pressure, and maintaining a healthy weight can help prevent it. Although there is no cure, treatments such as medication and laser therapy can help slow its progression.
While AMD doesn’t cause total blindness, glaucoma can. It is the leading cause of blindness in people over 60. Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve, the nerve that connects the eye to the brain. The damage is due to high eye pressure. Glaucoma is known as the silent thief of vision because it often shows no symptoms in its early stages. Regular eye exams can help find it before vision loss occurs, and while there’s no cure, medication and surgery can help stop further damage.
A cataract is when the lens becomes cloudy. When this happens, it can affect your vision. Aging is the most common cause of cataracts; They are extremely common with age due to normal eye changes that occur after the age of 40. It is estimated that over 90% of people over the age of 65 have or have had cataracts. Fortunately, cataracts are easily treatable with surgery to remove the clouded lens and replace it with an artificial lens implant. This data graph from ComparetheMarket shows us the eyesight data of several countries, with the United States and Australia being almost equal in the number of cataract surgeries performed.
Diabetes damages the blood vessels that support the retina and can cause various eye problems, including diabetic retinopathy. While there aren’t many warning signs, as the condition progresses, people will notice certain signs, such as: Fortunately, diabetic retinopathy is one of the most preventable causes of vision impairment. An annual eye exam can diagnose diabetes and keep the disease manageable.
Tips to keep your eye health at its best
While you may not be able to prevent eye disorders from developing as you age, there are things you can do to reduce the likelihood of developing certain disorders and prevent problems from becoming unmanageable. Since systemic diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes can directly affect your eye health, your goal should be to adopt an overall healthy lifestyle as you age. Follow the basics: eat a balanced diet, get exercise, quit smoking, sleep well, and make sure you have the right health insurance.
There are also things you can do that are more specific to eye health. Because UV light can damage your eyes, wear sunglasses that protect against both UVA and UVB wavelengths. When reading, always pay attention to the right light so as not to strain your eyes. And of course, keep up with your yearly eye exams.
We can’t stop aging and let’s face it, it’s better than the alternative! By taking care of our eyes and prioritizing our eye health, we can live healthier and happier lives. Routine eye exams can help identify and treat most age-related eye problems and diseases, so stick to these appointments.