Age over 40
If you’re over 40, you’ve probably noticed your eyes have changed. Most notably, presbyopia — the normal, age-related loss of near vision — usually becomes a problem in our 40s, requiring new vision correction solutions. Learn about measures you can take to keep seeing clearly for years to come.
Menopause and Vision
Many older people have dry eyes that can range from mild to severe. And if you are 50 or older and female, your chance of developing a more severe form of dry eye syndrome is even higher.
Women who have undergone menopause may experience disrupted chemical signals that help maintain a stable tear film. Resulting inflammation also can lead to decreased tear production and dry eye. Some theories indicate that a decline in the hormone androgen could be an underlying cause of dry eye in older women.
What Can You Do if You Are Older and Develop Dry Eyes?
While levels of the female hormone estrogen also decrease following menopause, studies have not shown any beneficial effect of estrogen hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in relieving dry eye. If you are over 40 and have been diagnosed with dry eye, you may want to avoid laser vision correction surgery. Procedures such as LASIK and PRK can permanently affect nerve function of your eye’s clear surface (cornea) and worsen dry eye problems.
Dry eyes are common in women after menopause. If you choose to have a refractive surgery consultation, be sure to tell your examining eye doctor about your dry eye condition. Your doctor can perform special tests to determine if your eyes are moist enough for laser vision correction.
If you already have been diagnosed with dry eyes, make sure you are being treated appropriately for other conditions associated with both aging and dry eye, such as rheumatoid arthritis and thyroid autoimmune disease. Also, keep in mind that many medications required by adults over age 40 may cause or worsen dry eye problems.
Examples include diuretics (often prescribed for heart conditions) and antidepressants. If you suspect a medication may be the underlying cause of your dry eye, be sure to discuss this with your doctor. It’s possible that changing to a different medical treatment may be equally effective without causing dry eye problems. Also, concurrent treatment of your dry eye may be necessary. Finally, it’s possible that allergies or other problems that cause eye inflammation may be the underlying cause of your dry eye symptoms. Your eye doctor may recommend over-the-counter or prescription eye drops to relieve both your eye allergies and inflammatory dry eye problems.
Driving at Night
If you are an older driver, what can you do to keep yourself and your loved ones safe on the road at night? First, assess your ability to drive safely. Also, make sure you visit an eye care professional at least once every two years, or even more frequently if you have a significant eye condition or visual complaint. If you have diabetes, get your eyes examined at least once yearly, and closely follow your doctor’s recommendations regarding diet, blood sugar control, insulin, and self-care to reduce the risks of diabetic retinopathy, which can progress to severe vision loss without warning.
Seek immediate care when you detect symptoms of sight-threatening eye diseases. Remember that many symptoms of eye problems appear late in the disease process, so your urgent response is extremely important. Older drivers may have trouble perceiving and quickly reacting to unexpected events. Ask your eye care professional to prescribe special eyeglasses that may help you see better on the road at night.
Vision over 60
As you reach your 60s and beyond, you need to prepare for normal vision changes that can include cataracts. Also, be alert to warning signs of more serious, age-related vision problems that could cause blindness. But wise lifestyle choices and regular eye exams can significantly improve your chances of maintaining good eye health even as you age.
Safe driving after 60
If you are 60 or older, driving a car might be riskier than you realize. Research shows that our ability to see moving objects while we ourselves are in motion deteriorates much sooner than our ability to see stationary objects. Age-related eye diseases also can compromise vision, even before we are aware of symptoms. As we grow older, our driving skills are further challenged because we also lose peripheral vision and our reaction time slows.
Tips for Protecting Your Eyes
To protect your eyesight and keep your eyes healthy as you age, consider these simple guidelines:
Find out if you are at higher risk for eye diseases. Be aware of your family’s health history. Do you or any of your family suffer from diabetes or have a history of high blood pressure? Are you over the age of 65? Regular eye exams are particularly important because an early diagnosis can limit any vision loss and help preserve your eyesight.
Have regular physical exams to check for diabetes and high blood pressure. If left untreated, these diseases can cause eye problems. In particular, diabetes and high blood pressure can lead to conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, glaucoma, and ocular hypertension. Look for warning signs of changes in your vision. If you start noticing changes in your vision, see your eye doctor immediately. Some trouble signs to look for include double vision, hazy vision, and difficulty seeing in low light conditions. Other signs to look for are frequent flashes of light, floaters, and eye pain and swelling. All of these symptoms can indicate a potential eye health problem that demands immediate attention.
Want good vision all your life? Take care of your eyes, and get regular eye exams. Exercise more frequently. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, some studies suggest that regular exercise — such as walking — can reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration by up to 70 percent. Protect your eyes from harmful UV light. You should always wear sunglasses with proper UV protection to shield your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays. This will help reduce your risk of cataracts and other eye damage.
Eat a healthy and balanced diet. Numerous studies have shown that antioxidants can possibly reduce the risk of cataracts. These antioxidants are obtained from eating a diet containing plentiful amounts of fruits and colorful or dark green vegetables. Studies have also shown that eating fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids might also prevent macular degeneration.
Get your eyes checked at least every two years. A thorough eye exam, including dilating your pupils, can determine your risk for major eye diseases such as diabetic retinopathy, which has no early warning signs or symptoms. An eye exam also can ensure that your vision prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses is up to date.
Don’t smoke. The many dangers of smoking have been well documented. When it comes to eye health, people who smoke are at greater risk of developing age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. It’s true that following these steps is no guarantee of perfect vision throughout your lifetime. But maintaining a healthy lifestyle and having regular eye exams will certainly decrease your risk of developing a sight-stealing eye problem that otherwise might have been prevented.
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