Did you know that all seniors, regardless of health status, should have an eye exam at least every two years? And some, for example those with diabetes, should have an eye exam every year. This is important to check for age-related diseases that can cause you to lose sight. Examples are:
- Cataracts: The lens in the eye becomes cloudy. This makes things look blurry or hazy, can make you see double, or can make it difficult to see at night. Cataracts affect more than 24 million Americans aged 40 and older. By age 75, approximately half of all Americans have cataracts.
- Diabetic retinopathy: High blood sugar levels damage tiny blood vessels in the eye. This can cause clots or make blood vessels swell and leak. About half of all people with diabetes will develop diabetic retinopathy. It is the most common cause of blindness in the United States.
- Macular degeneration: The macula is a part of the eye where there is an increased concentration of vision receptors. In this condition, you lose your central vision first and the area of visual loss gradually gets larger and larger. About 11 million Americans have age-related macular degeneration.
- Glaucoma: Your eyes have a nerve called the optic nerve that sends signals from your eye to your brain. An increase in pressure in the front part of your eyeball can damage the optic nerve and lead to vision loss. About 3 million Americans have glaucoma, but only half of them know they have it. Glaucoma is the 2nd leading cause of blindness worldwide.
A regular eye exam is also important to check for other vision changes like nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism. Uncorrected vision can be a safety hazard and affect your quality of life. If you have one of these conditions, your vision can be improved with glasses or contacts.
Can I Check My Vision at Home?
You may have heard that home vision tests are now available online. Although it may be tempting to skip the office visit, home vision tests cannot check all the things that your eye doctor will check when you go to their office. Protect your vision and have your eye health checked by your eye doctor in the office.
How Can I Prevent Vision Problems?
Many things that you can do to for a healthier body also can protect your vision. Many of these also protect against other diseases like heart and lung disease.
- Stop smoking if you are a smoker.
- When out in the sun, wear sunglasses that protect your eyes from ultraviolet (UV) rays.
- Wear protective eyewear when engaged in activities that could injure your eyes.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables and less meat, butter, and cheese.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Stay active.
- Make sure that your blood pressure and blood sugar are under control.
Where Can I Learn More?
Check out these websites to learn more about eye health:
- American Academy of Ophthalmology, EyeSmart: Eye Health A-Z - American Academy of Ophthalmology (aao.org)
- National Eye Institute: National Eye Institute | National Eye Institute (nih.gov)