September is Healthy Aging Month and knowledge is power! With that in mind, the focus of this blog is to educate patients about those eye conditions that often come with age. It’s important to note that although these conditions affect older patients, that doesn’t mean that they can’t also affect younger patients. Some are even congenital, which means they are present from birth.
It’s true that some patients can put off the need for reading glasses longer than others. That said, everyone, at some point in their lives, will need reading glasses. This happens when the natural lens of the eye loses its elasticity. This usually occurs sometime in our mid-40’s. Up until that point, the lens of the eye changes shape to enable us to adjust our focus from distant to near objects (and from near to distant objects). If your distance vision is fine and you’ve never needed glasses before, over the counter, non-prescription reading glasses are usually sufficient. Others may need to see an ophthalmologist for a prescription for full reading glasses or special multi-focal lenses. If you don’t want to wear reading glasses, there is another treatment option available, known as monovision laser vision correction. Read more
As we age, there are many things that can contribute to dry eye symptoms. In older patients, dry eye is usually a result of a malfunctioning of either the lacrimal gland or the meibomian gland. The lacrimal gland produces tears. When this isn’t functioning properly, the quantity of tears is decreased. The meibomian glands are located in the eyelid margins, near the lashes. These glands produce the oily top layer of the tear film which is needed for healthy tear function and clear vision. Malfunctioning of these glands affect the quality of tears. Both can lead to irritating dry eye symptoms. Visiting your eye doctor to determine the cause of dry eye is an important first step, as the treatment can be tailored to address the cause.
Read more about dry eye symptoms and treatment options here:
The question isn’t if you will develop cataracts, but when. Everyone, if they live long enough, will develop cataracts. For some patients, this happens in their 50’s. Other patients develop cataracts later in life, even into their 80’s and 90’s. Cataracts develop as a natural aging process of the lens of the eye. Over time, this lens becomes cloudy. If left untreated, the lens can become hardened and opaque. Symptoms include blurry vision and halos around lights at night. Although cataracts can’t be avoided entirely, you may be able to delay the growth of cataracts. Read more
Open-angle glaucoma is a silent, painless eye disease that can cause blindness if left undetected and untreated. In an eye with glaucoma, a buildup of intraocular pressure can cause damage to the delicate optic nerve in the back of the eye. The optic nerve connects the eye to the visual centers in the brain. In most cases, intraocular pressure can be controlled with the use of prescription eye drops. In more advanced cases, surgery may be necessary. The silent nature of glaucoma is what makes it so dangerous. Patients do not have any symptoms, so glaucoma can only be detected by an eye doctor. Early detection and treatment is critical, which is why routine annual eye exams are so important. Read more
Macular Degeneration (AKA: Age-Related Macular Degeneration, or ARMD)
ARMD is another painless eye disease which is marked by degeneration of the macula. The macula of the eye is the part of the retina responsible for both central vision and for distinguishing fine detail. Symptoms of ARMD can include blurry central vision, difficulty reading, blank or missing spots in central vision and waving or distortion of straight lines or edges. Although there’s nothing definitive that prevents ARMD, there are some things that studies have shown effective in slowing the progression of this disease. Read more
Although these conditions are some of the most common that can affect us as we age, they certainly aren’t the only ones. Your best defense against these and similar eye diseases is early detection. This can be achieved by visiting your eye doctor annually for a comprehensive, dilated eye exam.
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