Blindness Awareness Month – How Well Does Your Elderly Parent See?

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Has your loved one ever said those words to you? It can be frustrating, especially if they haven’t been to the doctor in a while, and you suspect something is up because of their actions.

Just as our physical strength decreases with age, our eyes can also exhibit age-related decline. As we turn 50, 60, 70 and older, our eyes go through many changes.

Presbyopia is one of the most common and occurs when people experience blurred vision when doing common everyday activities such as reading, sewing, or working on the computer. For a time, you can compensate for this change by holding material further away from your eyes until it comes into view. But eventually, reading glasses or multifocal contacts, or eyeglasses will be needed to live with the condition daily. For a more permanent fix, there are surgery options such as monovision LASIK available. In addition, as you continue to age, presbyopia will become more advanced, meaning you may require more frequent changes in eyeglass or contact lens prescriptions.

Cataracts are so common, they are considered to be a regular part of the ageing process. According to the Mayo Clinic, about one half of all 65-year-old Americans have some form of cataract formation on their eyes. As you age into your 70s and beyond, the number continues to increase. Modern cataract surgery is extremely safe and effective. Statistics show that nearly 100 per cent of all vision lost to cataracts is restored. The key is catching cataracts before they advance too far. A simple test to check your dream is to place a hand over one eye at a time and see if you are seeing at 100 per cent level. If your vision is clouded out of either eye, you may have cataracts, and it’s best to be tested right away.

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in seniors. Currently, it affects more than 1.75 million people in the US. As the US population advances in age, it is expected to increase to 3 million by 2020. Macular degeneration is degeneration of the macula, which is part of the retina responsible for the sharp, central vision you need to do common everyday activities, such as read or drive. Macular degeneration is diagnosed as either dry or wet neovascular, which refers to the growth of new blood vessels in an area where they are not supposed to be. While there is no outright cure, some treatments have been shown to delay its progression or even improve vision, so it’s important to get treatment as soon as you notice a problem.

Glaucoma refers to a group of eye disorders that all cause damage to the optic nerve that carries information from the eye to the brain. There are few or no initial symptoms. However, in most cases, it is associated with higher than normal pressure inside the eye. If left untreated or uncontrolled, glaucoma causes peripheral vision loss and eventually can lead to blindness. Your risk of developing glaucoma increases with each decade, up from about 1 per cent in your 40s to around 12 per cent in your 80s.

To keep your eyes and your vision healthy and functioning at the optimal level, start with a healthy diet and wise lifestyle choices, such as not smoking. Then, visit your optometrist or ophthalmologist regularly, or if you have any changing concerns, you notice with your eyesight.

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