5 Common Age-Related Eye Diseases and Possible Treatment
By the time you turn 65, you are very likely to have experienced some sort of eye condition. Eye problems in seniors are exceedingly common, not just in the US but worldwide. Quickly diagnosing and treating these eye conditions can reduce the risk of permanent partial or total vision loss. Here are a few common age-related eye diseases to watch out for and what to do about them.
Millions of people are affected by macular degeneration, one of the most common causes of vision loss. This condition affects central vision, rarely leading to total blindness—however, it can severely limit a person’s ability to read, drive, recognize faces, and complete other essential daily activities.
There is no cure for macular degeneration, but there are treatments that may help, including taking certain vitamins and minerals. Surgery may be helpful in certain cases. You can reduce your risk of developing this disease by avoiding smoking, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, keeping your blood pressure under control, and wearing sunglasses outdoors to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays.
Diabetic retinopathy is the most common eye condition in patients with diabetes and one of the leading causes of blindness. This disorder involves changes to the blood vessels in the retina. There are different stages of diabetic retinopathy, some of which can lead to vision loss.
You may not be able to prevent this disease entirely, but there are steps that you can take to reduce your odds of developing onset or advanced disease, such as monitoring your blood sugar levels carefully and having regular eye exams. If you do have it, responsibly managing your blood sugar levels can slow the disease’s progression.
Glaucoma is an eye disease in which fluid pressure builds inside the eyes. This increase in pressure can damage the optic nerve. Anyone can develop glaucoma, but it is more common among African-American individuals, those over the age of 60, people with a family history of the disease, and those with high intraocular pressure.
A variety of treatments are available to help, including eye drops, pills, surgery, laser, or a combination of methods.
In a patient with cataracts, the lens of the eye progressively loses its transparency, affecting vision. Cataracts are very common and almost inevitable in older individuals but can sometimes occur in younger people as well. When the normally-clear lens turns opaque with clouding, it doesn’t allow light to pass through, affecting the person’s ability to see. This problem is caused by a clumping of the proteins that make up the lens.
Cataracts are not considered a medical emergency and leaving them alone does not cause progressive damage to the eye but, as the clouding progresses over time, it becomes more difficult for the patient to see clearly. People over 60 are the most likely to develop cataracts, but they can occur in people as young as 40. Symptoms may be controlled with anti-glare sunglasses, brighter lighting, or magnifying lenses, but eventually, surgery may be the only option to restore vision. Thankfully, the vision loss caused by cataracts are usually completely reversible.
Retinitis pigmentosa refers to a group of rare genetic disorders that cause the disintegration of the retina and damage to rods and cones. This disorder is different than the others on this list in that although it is age-related, it isn’t old age that increases the risk of this disorder. Most people diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa are teens or young adults, and the condition often leads to total blindness by the age of 40.
This disease is typically an inherited one, but you may be able to maximize your child’s vision by ensuring regular vision screenings.
If you have any questions, are experiencing vision problems, or have waited more than a year since your last eye exam, contact us now to schedule a visit.