Our eyes age along with us. Loss of vision and impaired eye function can make life difficult, as it restricts mobility and independence, and increases the risk of accidents and injuries. It is hence critical to understand how aging might impact your vision, which symptoms may indicate a serious eye issue, and when to get help from an ophthalmologist. Here are some eye problems aged adults should look out for.
Glaucoma is a condition leading to damage of the optic nerve. Glaucoma, which is often but not always caused by an increase in eye pressure, or intraocular pressure, can result in the loss of peripheral vision and, if left untreated, total blindness. Fortunately, glaucoma can be prevented through surgery or by using topical eye drops to reduce intraocular pressure.
Cataracts, or cloudy eye lenses, are the most common cause of blindness worldwide. The lens is largely made up of water and protein, and as people age, proteins in the eyes can begin to accumulate and cause vision to cloud. Unfortunately, everyone gets cataracts as they become older. Cataracts cannot be avoided, but surgery is an effective treatment method. The procedure is short and fairly painless and entails replacing the clouded lens with an artificial lens implant.
Aged-Related Macular Degeneration
This chronic eye condition is the primary cause of vision loss in those over the age of 65 in the US. It is characterized by a damaged macula, the portion of the eye required for clear vision. There are two types of macular degeneration: dry macular degeneration and wet macular degeneration. The majority of aged adults deal with the former, which is caused by the thinning of the macula over time. Treatment for dry macular degeneration is limited, but nutritional supplements can halt its progression. Approximately 10% of individuals develop the “wet” form of the condition, in which abnormal blood vessels leak blood or fluid from the underside of the retina, causing further impairment to central vision. Those with wet macular degeneration can be treated with drug injections or laser eye surgery.
Diabetic retinopathy is a chronic condition induced by diabetes, resulting in the blood vessels of the retina becoming damaged. Initially, minor vision problems occur, but as diabetes progresses, so does vision loss, which may eventually result in blindness.
The condition can be treated using laser treatments. Some patients undergo vitrectomy surgery, followed by laser surgery to remove blood and scar tissue from the eye. To alleviate inflammation or slow down blood vessel growth, pharmaceutical injections like ranibizumab may be administered. These treatments may help to reduce the rate of vision loss, but cannot fully restore vision or serve as a cure for diabetic retinopathy.
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