As we get older, it’s normal for our vision to change. However, there are steps we all can take to preserve our eyesight and improve our vision, which is of course an important part of staying safe and independent.
The effects of aging on vision can range from slightly irritating changes to serious eye diseases.
Changes may include:
- Difficulty reading the small print
- Taking longer to adjust from light to dark
- More sensitivity to glare from sunlight or unshielded light bulbs
- Loss of depth perception, making it difficult to judge distances
- Difficulty in seeing contrasts and colour
- Dry eyes or tearing/watery eyes.
Normal age-related vision loss can be corrected with glasses, medication, or surgery. Even with more serious conditions, seniors can stay safe and independent using vision aids and making changes to their homes and routines. There are also many services available to help seniors adjust to vision loss.
Symptoms of Vision Loss
As you age, you or even someone close to you may notice that you’re experiencing symptoms of vision deterioration.
Signs may include:
- Squinting and/or a more intense sensitivity to light
- Choosing bright over dull coloured objects or clothing
- Trouble with depth perception. For example: spilling food or drinks because you misjudge where items are
- Finding it hard to read small print
- Being a little clumsy. For example: having difficulty threading a needle, buttoning a shirt or even bumping into things
- Seeing flashes of light or rapid movement from the corners of your eyes
- Difficulties driving at night
- Experiencing uncontrolled eye movement
- Making mistakes while driving, such as missing street signs or traffic signs
- Falling because you’ve missed a step or didn’t see an object on the floor.
Serious Health Effects of Vision Loss
In addition to the above changes and symptoms, there are several diseases which can affect your vision.
Cataracts are described as a gradual clouding of the natural lens of the eye, which prevents light from reaching the retina. This clouding may make it difficult or even impossible for you to read or drive unless the cataract is removed. Fortunately, this is one of the most successful surgeries done in medicine today and is very common.
Floaters are described as tiny spots or specks that float across your field of vision. They are usually normal and often moving the eye around will make the spots shift out of your central vision. However, if you notice a sudden change in the number or types of spots, or if they seem to come with light flashes, see your eye doctor as soon as possible as this may be a sign of a serious eye disease.
Glaucoma develops when the pressure within the eye starts to destroy the nerve fibres within the retina. If not treated early, glaucoma can cause vision loss and even blindness. Most people have no early symptoms of Glaucoma, so regular eye examinations are required to detect it. Treatment may include eye drops, medication, or surgery.
Age-related macular degeneration
Macular degeneration occurs when the macula (the central part of the retina responsible for sharp focus) is damaged. This damage may be the result of many factors, including aging. It causes permanent loss of central vision. Regular eye exams can detect the disease early on and laser treatments can slow down the central vision loss.
This is an eye issue linked to diabetes. Changes to the blood vessels caused by diabetes can starve the retina of oxygen. This condition can go through many stages and can result in blindness. Symptoms include cloudy vision and seeing spots. If you have diabetes, be sure to have regular eye examinations and tell your eye specialist that you are diabetic. Treatment can slow down vision loss. Laser treatment in the early stages can be successful.
Minimizing Your Risk
There are many steps you can take to protect your vision:
- If you are over the age of 45, have your eyes examined on a regular basis.
- A home humidifier and eye drops may help, if you suffer from dry eyes (gritty, itchy, or burning). If this doesn’t help talk to your eye care professional - In a few serious cases, surgery may be needed to correct the problem.
- If you have watery eyes, it may be a result of you being more sensitive to light, wind, or temperature change. Shielding your eyes or simply wearing sunglasses may help solve the problem. However, this condition could be the result of an eye infection, eye irritation, or a blocked tear duct, all of which can be treated. See your doctor to be safe and to find out the exact cause and treatment.
- Seeing better can sometimes be as easy as changing a light bulb to one with a higher wattage. Putting 100 or 150 watt bulbs in your lamps can reduce eye strain. Just make sure the fixture is designed for the extra wattage. Remember bright light is extra important in stairways to help prevent falls.
- Quit smoking. Smoking is a major risk factor in the early onset of age-related macular degeneration. If you need help quitting talk to your doctor there are many options available to help you succeed.
- Reduce glare as much as possible — good lampshades, glare shields on computer monitors, and sunglasses. Sunglasses should provide 99 to 100% UV-A & UV-B protection. It’s important to remember that UV rays can harm your eyes even on a cloudy day.
- Protect your eyes from accidents in your home.
- Always use a grease shield over frying foods.
- Make sure spray cans and nozzles are pointed away from you when spraying.
- Be sure to wear safety glasses in the workshop or when using chemical products such as ammonia.
- Be careful of a recoil when using bungee cords.
- A healthy diet not only helps your over all health it also helps maintain healthy eyesight. So, eat those carrots! A daily dose of the vitamins and minerals found in melons, citrus fruit, carrots, spinach, and kale may help slow the progress of age-related eye diseases such as macular degeneration, glaucoma and even cataracts.
- For your safety and those around you please don't drive at night if you have problems with depth perception, glare, or other vision difficulties. Driving at night can put added stress on your eyes and may cause you to get into an accident. Be careful - Drive safe.
May is Vision Health Month, your vision is so important to daily living and quality of life, so it’s important to recognize changes early. Having your eyes examined regularly can help to detect any issues early on and giving your eye care professional time to create a treatment plan. Ultimately, this will help you maintain good vision.