Geriatric Eye Exams
Whether you’re 20 years old or 80 years old, vision is one of our most important senses. As you reach your 60s and beyond, knowing what to expect when it comes to age-related problems that can cause vision loss is the first step in taking care of your eyes.
The American Optometric Association recommends an annual eye exam for anyone over 60. This is even more important if you have high blood pressure or diabetes. Many eye diseases develop painlessly without symptoms, and you might not notice any changes to your vision until the condition is in its advanced stages. The earlier your doctor detects and treats these problems, the more likely you can retain your good vision. Some of the common vision disorders you should be aware of include:
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD): an eye disease that affects the macula, the part of the light-sensitive retina that’s responsible for seeing fine detail and colors. AMD causes blurriness centrally, but the side vision remains unaffected. There are 2 types:
- Dry AMD: 80% of people with AMD will have the dry form, where clumps of lipid and protein grow in the macula. There is no way to treat dry AMD yet, but dietary supplements (AREDS 2) can help stop it from progressing to advanced AMD.
- Wet AMD: This is the less common but more serious form of AMD, where new abnormal blood vessels grow in the retina and leak blood. Vision loss is much faster with wet AMD than with dry AMD. This is treated with retinal injections.
- Cataracts: cloudy areas in the normally clear lens inside the eye. It can happen from years of exposure to UV rays, chronic steroid treatment, or from past injuries. Depending on the size and location of the cataracts, vision may appear blurry even with glasses on and you may have trouble with glare. This is fixed with cataract surgery, which replaces the cloudy lens with a plastic lens implant that also corrects your vision.
- Glaucoma: a group of eye diseases that cause damage to the optic nerve, which affects the side vision in both eyes. If left untreated, glaucoma will eventually affect central vision as well. This is treated with eye pressure lowering drops, laser surgeries, and drainage implant surgeries.
Even if there is permanent vision loss, there are many low-vision rehabilitative services that your optometrist can provide. Your doctor can prescribe telescopes and magnifiers that are mounted onto glasses to provide better distance and near vision, respectively. There are also handheld, stand, and video magnifiers to allow those with low vision to read more comfortably with different brightness, contrast, background colors, and illumination.
Vision changes happen as you get older, but it doesn’t have to affect your lifestyle. Schedule your annual examination today to keep your vision great for tomorrow.