Age-Related Vision Changes To Be Aware Of
Once you reach the milestone of 50, you will most probably be getting used to holding books at arms-length to be able to read. This is a perfectly normal age-related process called presbyopia, caused by hardening of the lenses in your eyes. Although it’s possible to manage for a while, eventually you have to face the fact that you need reading glasses or contact lenses.
At 60+ you may notice that your eyesight is becoming less efficient in general and this is also a natural part of the ageing process. However, there are some eye changes that are classed as diseases and it is vital that you are aware of these. Conditions such as macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma are among the most commonly occurring diseases of the eyes.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Nearly 600,000 people in the UK are affected by macular degeneration – it is the most common cause of sight loss. Over the age of 65, your chances of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) are 1 in 2,000, and by 85 years it is 1 in 5.
“Whilst age is the main risk factor, you can reduce the risk considerably by not smoking and by eating a healthy diet. Plenty of vegetables like spinach, kale and sweetcorn, along with eggs are good sources of anti-oxidants, the essential substances in our diet that slow the ageing of our cells,” says Cathy Yelf, Chief Executive of the Macular Society, the national charity for anyone affected by a macular condition
“Being aware of AMD is important as early diagnosis makes a difference to any future treatment. If you see any wavy lines in your vision, in lamp posts, door frames – anything vertical – that’s a tell-tale early sign. Routine eye tests at the opticians are important for everyone especially as they get older.”
For further information go to www.macularsociety.org or contact the Macular society Helpline: 0300 3030 111
As we age, the lens inside our eye slowly alters and becomes less flexible. Eventually it turns misty and this is when it is referred to as a cataract. The usual cause of cataracts is ageing, but there are other causes such as diabetes, trauma, certain medications, smoking, and over-exposure to strong sunlight.
If you notice your sight becoming fuzzy and the edges of stairs or steps less defined, or if car headlights begin to dazzle much more than they did before, you should pay a visit to an optician who will be able to tell you whether you have a cataract or not.
The only effective treatment for cataracts is surgery and this is carried out by an ophthalmologist at a hospital. The operation is a straightforward procedure to remove the misty lens and replace it with an artificial one, whereupon sight is fully restored.
Remember that in the UK, eye examinations are free for anyone of 60+ and cataract surgery is available free for everyone on the NHS.
The risk of developing glaucoma increases with each decade after the age of 40. The umbrella term ‘glaucoma’ covers a group of eye disorders that give rise to damage of the optic nerve. This is the nerve that carries messages from the eye to the brain.
Usually glaucoma presents with abnormally high pressure inside the eye and without treatment will cause loss of peripheral vision and could even lead to blindness.
One of the difficulties in identifying glaucoma is that in its early stages it has very few symptoms. This is why regular eye checks are vital to ensure that any abnormality is picked up at an early stage. Because glaucoma can be hereditary, if you have close relatives with the condition, your eye examinations are free in the UK, even before you reach the age of 60.
The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) “are there to give practical and emotional support to anyone affected by any kind of sight loss to help them to face the future with confidence”. The RNIB Helpline is 0303 123 9999.
If you have any concerns about your eye health or that of a loved one, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your GP, even if it is only to reassure you that your concerns are just a normal part of the ageing process.
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