Judson Haims: Aging and vision changes to be aware of, not fear them
Special to The Aspen Times
At some point as we age, eyeglasses or contacts lay waiting. According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), “problems seeing clearly at close distances, especially when reading and working on the computer, is among the most common problems adults develop between ages 41 to 60.”
Changes in our eyes as we age is quite normal. Often, the reasons for the change include presbyopia, reduced retinal illuminance, cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.
Presbyopia is probably the most common and normal changes to aging eyes. This occurs because proteins within the lens of the eye cause it to thicken and become less flexible. As this happens, the lens’s ability to refract light rays is impeded which affects they eye’s ability to focus. Reading and progressive glasses are pretty simple solutions, however sometimes, corrective surgeries like LASIK and corneal inlays may provide some remedy.
Reduced retinal illuminance simply means that the muscles that control our pupil size lose strength. As this occurs, the pupil becomes smaller and its ability to control how much light comes in makes reading harder and objects appear dimmer. While driving at night may become a greater concern, for reading, brighten up the lighting where you read most frequently.
Most often, cataracts develop slowly. As we age, the protein fibers of our eyes’ lens break down and clump together causing a clouding on the lens to occur. However, cataracts also can occur more quickly because of heredity, diabetes, smoking or eye injury. Protecting your eyes from the ultraviolet rays of sunlight is one of the best ways to protect your eye. If diminished vision hinders your quality of life, cataract surgery may be a viable option. It’s a relatively simple procedure with high efficacy.
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve. While glaucoma is considered to be one of the leading causes of blindness as we age, it can be prevented with early treatment. Most often, the buildup of fluid in the front of the eye causes an increase in pressure inside the eye which damages the optic nerve that carries visual information to the brain. Although there is no cure for glaucoma, there are treatments that improve the flow of fluid from the eye and reduce fluid production. Early detection is important in prevention, and glaucoma eyedrops used regularly can be very effective when concerns are found early on.
According to The American Macular Degeneration Foundation (AMDF), “Macular Degeneration is caused by the deterioration of the central portion of the retina, the inside back layer of the eye that records the images we see and sends them via the optic nerve from the eye to the brain. The retina’s central portion, known as the macula, is responsible for focusing central vision in the eye, and it controls our ability to read, drive a car, recognize faces or colors and see objects in fine detail.”
Macular Degeneration is often detected in an eye exam — before the symptoms become noticeable. While there is no cure, there are some treatments that when detected early, can make a difference. As well, incorporating dark green leafy vegetables and fish high in omega-3 fatty acids have shown to reduce risks.
Diabetic retinopathy is a disorder from diabetes complications. When blood sugar is too high, blood vessels within the retina can break and leak blood or fluid into the eye and damage the retina. Symptoms include eye floaters, double or blurry vision and fluctuating vison. Managing and preventing diabetes is paramount to reducing vision impairment. Fortunately, with regular eye checkups, diabetic retinopathy may be detected before vision problems occur.
Outside of seeing an eye doctor regularly to discuss personal and family concerns of eye problems, perhaps the best defenses for developing eye problems and vision loss may be maintaining a healthy diet and weight, protecting your eyes with sunglasses and physical activity.
Talk to your eye doctor and ask about how vitamin A and carotenoids may help. Good sources of vitamin A are orange and yellow vegetables and fruits, eggs and oily fish such as king mackeral, salmon and bluefin tuna. Carotenoids can be found in dark green leafy vegetables.
Saturated fats, sugar and foods high in sodium increase your risk of eye disease.
Get your eye exam regularly and be proactive. If you have diabetes or a family history of eye disease, it’s important to educate yourself with what you can do to mitigate further onset.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. He can be reached at http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns or 970-328-5526.
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