As we age, it is natural for vision changes to occur. As a result, some people may struggle to see as clearly as they did when they were younger. Regular eye exams by an ophthalmologist help keep eyes healthy by uncovering certain conditions that can seriously impair sight, including the following:
- Cataracts. Cloudy areas in the lens of the eye, cataracts usually form slowly. Some may become large or thick and impair vision. In these cases, the cataracts can usually be removed by surgery.
- Dry Eye. This condition occurs when tear glands do not produce enough tears. It can cause itching, burning or redness and it is more common as people age. Treatment options may include using a humidifier, special eye drops or surgery.
- Presbyopia. Beginning at around the age of 40, you may find that you have increased difficulty reading small print or seeing objects close up. This condition is typically treatable with the use of reading glasses and/or contact lenses.
- Glaucoma. This is a condition which refers to a group of eye diseases which cause damage to the optic nerve. Glaucoma can be treated with prescription eye drops, lasers or surgery. There are no early symptoms for glaucoma, but having regular eye exams by an ophthalmologist enables prompt detection and treatment.
- Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). AMD, a leading cause of severe vision loss in people over 50, according to the National Eye Institute, is an eye disease that occurs when the central part of the retina is damaged. Advanced AMD may lead to vision loss, so it is vital to get dilated eye exams.
- Diabetic Retinopathy. Caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina, this is the most common diabetic eye disease and a leading cause of blindness in adults in the U.S., according to the National Federation of the Blind. In most cases, laser surgery can prevent significant vision loss associated with this disease.
Ways to Help Keep Your Eyes Healthy
In addition to getting routine eye exams, here are some lifestyle tips to consider to help maintain healthy eyes:
- Eat Fruits & Vegetables. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet is important for your eyes. In particular, the American Optometric Association (AOA) states that the organic pigments, lutein and zeaxanthin, found in fruits and vegetables, may protect against cataracts and AMD. The AOA suggests eating five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, as recommended by the National Cancer Institute and U.S. Department of Agriculture.
- Wear Sunglasses. Strong sunlight may damage your eyes and may increase your risk of cataracts. Wear sunglasses consistently to protect your eyes.
- Don’t Smoke. By reducing the supply of antioxidants in the eyes, smoking can increase the chances of developing such conditions as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
- Arrange Good Lighting. To see well, your eyes need three times as much light when you’re in your 60s compared to when you were in your 20s, says the National Institutes of Health. Increase the daylight in your home by keeping curtains open and windows clean. For reading, use direct light from an adjustable table lamp to avoid glare.
- Exercise Regularly. Good circulation and oxygen intake are important for eye health; both are stimulated by regular exercise.
- Sleep Well. Good sleep is important to eye health. It’s needed to ensure that your eyes are properly lubricated and cleared of irritants, and that your eye muscles are sufficiently rested. The National Institute on Aging recommends seven to nine hours of sleep per night.
The American Optometric Association recommends annual eye examinations for everyone over age 60. If you notice any changes in your vision, see your doctor of optometry as soon as possible.