There's no way around it, we all get older. And as knees start to creak, a bit more salt than pepper is visible — if you've any hair left at all — and it's harder to remember just where you put the car keys, age-related vision changes start to come into the picture. A number of vision issues are more likely to arise once you're in your golden years; but with supervision, care and an idea of what to look for, seniors can give themselves the best possible options to keep eyes in tip top condition.
The first thing to know is that it's not just about your eyes; a number of other health conditions might not seem vision-related, but actually have a huge potential impact on eye health. In particular, high blood pressure and diabetes have side effects related to vision issues. For instance, people with diabetes are far more likely than those without to get glaucoma and cataracts and are susceptible to diabetic retinopathy.
For all seniors, the lynchpin for all vision care is regular checkups with an eye doctor who can catch issues early and treat any problems that might arise. Knowing a family history of any vision problems like glaucoma can also help seniors stay ahead of a problem or be prepared should one arise.
And arise they frequently do. The simple fact is that more than half of all Americans have had cataracts or cataract surgery by the time they turn 80. But you don't have to be an octogenarian to have issues, one in three Americans have some sort of vision issue by age 65.
One of the issues that can most impact seniors' quality of life is Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), in which the macula — key tissue in the back center part of the eye — becomes damaged. The result can be serious, creating a sort of donut effect on your vision — you can see all around the sides, but the center of your sight disappears. There are a few treatments for AMD ranging from laser surgery and injections to high-dose vitamins, but these are usually successful only slowing progression, not reversing the effects. While AMD can strike anyone, doctors point to high blood pressure and smoking as risk factors.
Other common issues are glaucoma and cataracts, which are among the leading causes of blindness in the U.S. behind AMD. Glaucoma is a disease that causes damage to the optic nerve and cataracts are a clouding of the eyes' lens. Cataract surgery is very common and often very successful, while glaucoma is often managed with eye drops to reduce eye pressure and, in some cases, surgical treatment.
Some form of vision issue is likely to crop up as middle age gives way to the later years, but by taking precautions, staying healthy, wearing proper UV protection, and keeping in regular contact with an eye care professional, it's possible to address issues as soon as they appear rather than waiting until quality of live is severely affected.