~ by Jennifer Christensen
One of the inconveniences of aging is the natural lessening of our ability to see small print or make out objects in the dark. We may have to reach for our reading glasses when reading a menu in a dimly lit restaurant. That’s a normal process called Presbyopia when you can’t see small print clearly. It progresses slowly and is easy to correct with reading glasses. A small flashlight or cell phone light can come in handy, too.
Night blindness is another common complaint. The natural process of aging affects our ability to see, and more importantly, to react to visual stimuli in low light situations. This can be caused by impaired function of the rods in the retina. Some studies indicate that night blindness, or Nyctalopia, may be caused by a vitamin A deficiency. Your mother was right when she told you to eat more carrots because beta carotene is a great natural source of vitamin A. Even if you don’t have any eye health issues, safety is most important when driving a car. If you don’t feel safe, get a ride!
Effects of Light and Moisture
In situations with a lot of light, some people experience Floaters. These are small specks that drift across your field of sight that are noticeable in bright rooms or outdoors on a sunny days. Mostly normal, they can indicate a serious eye problem if they appear suddenly. When they are accompanied by a flash of light, it could mean that your retina might be detached from the back of your eye. In that case, it’s prudent to visit your eye doctor right away.
Women are especially prone to experience dry eyes after menopause, but men may notice it too. You can try over-the-counter drops or a humidifier in your home. If itching or burning becomes uncomfortable, your eye doctor can prescribe stronger drops.
The opposite can occur when your eyes make too many tears. This affects people who are sensitive to light, wind, or changes in temperature. Sunglasses are the first defense, but if the condition persists, it might be a sign of infection.
When to be Concerned
More serious eye conditions associated with aging are Cataracts, Glaucoma and Macular Degeneration. Cataracts appear like a coating of film over all or part of your eye. This blocks the lens and makes it harder for light to get through. Sometimes the cataract stays small and unobtrusive, but if they cause irritation, your doctor can remove them with surgery.
Glaucoma is a disease that affects the fluid around eye’s optic nerve causing pressure to build up. Those annoying tests that you undergo during your annual visit to the eye doctor can identify an issue before it becomes a problem. If Glaucoma is unchecked, it can lead to permanent vision loss.
Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the most serious, and the most prevalent, eye disease. It refers to deterioration of the central portion of the retina that occurs with age. It affects central vision more than side vision. Symptoms include distorted vision or objects that appear differently in size or color from right eye to left eye. Currently considered incurable, it is the leading cause of vision loss among older people, more than cataracts and glaucoma combined. Cigarette smoking doubles the risk of contracting Macular Degeneration.
Stay Focused on Healthy Habits
So many of the guidelines for ensuring general health and well-being as we age apply to caring for our eyes. A healthy, well-balanced diet (remember the carrots and other vegetables), regular exercise, sun protection and avoiding cigarette smoke are important, daily habits. Our eyes need rest like the rest of our bodies. Get plenty of sleep, take frequent breaks from your computer screen – turn it off at least 30 minutes before you go to sleep. Getting a little “shut eye” in the afternoon is practically medicinal. Above all, schedule regular appointments with your eye doctor so you can always see your best.
The information in the above article is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.