Aging brings many physical changes, including changes in vision, but these don’t have to prevent you from engaging in the activities you most enjoy. As with your general health, the actions you take today can help to prevent problems with vision that often occur as you age. Here’s a look at some strategies for caring for your eye health throughout your life.
Common Vision Problems of Aging
Aging causes a loss of the ability to focus light on the retina, diminished pupil size, dryness in the eyes and loss of peripheral vision. The years can also vitreous detachment, a common problem that causes spots and “floaters” in the field of vision. Other, more serious conditions can develop that require treatment to prevent vision loss. This is why regular visits to your eye doctor are even more important as you get older.
Presbyopia, or farsightedness, is a common problem that occurs with aging. When you are young, the muscle fibers are flexible and easily reshape to focus the eyes on close objects. Aging causes these fibers to become less pliable and make the lens of the eye less able to capture images that are close up. Corrective lenses can compensate for this problem, so that individuals can read and do close work more easily.
Cataracts are another common problem of aging. Cataracts are a clouding of the lens of the eye that causes dulling of colors, difficulty with night vision and frequent changes of eyeglasses or contact lens prescription. Excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, corticosteroid use and diabetes can hasten the development of cataracts. Cataract surgery can be done on an outpatient basis to help correct this problem.
Glaucoma is a problem of the optic nerve. Damage to the optic nerve occurs when excess fluid is not drained normally from the eye. It is a progressive disease that can lead to blindness if left untreated. Medications and surgical treatments are available to treat glaucoma to prevent vision loss.
The macula is the small, central portion of the retina of the eye that controls vision acuity. As people age, the macula may begin to deteriorate, causing loss of visual detail in the central vision field. There are two different forms of macular degeneration, each of which is treated in a different way. Diet, exercise, vitamin supplements and treatments can help to slow the progression of macular degeneration.
Diabetes causes changes in the blood vessels that carry blood and nutrients to the eyes. Your doctor will recommend more frequent visits to the eye doctor, along with careful management of glucose levels, to ensure your eye health. Detachment of the retina is a serious medical emergency that requires immediate treatment to prevent vision loss. If you have diabetes, see your eye doctor frequently to have your eyes checked.
Maintaining Good Vision
Health experts recommend a healthy diet to maintain good vision as you age, with foods such as green leafy vegetables for vitamins and minerals. Salmon, tuna and other oily fish provide omega-3 fatty acids that promote eye health. Eggs, nuts and beans provide protein without the fat and cholesterol of meat. Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C, which helps to promote eye health. A healthy diet will also help you to lose weight to prevent type-2 diabetes, which a major cause of vision problems.
Vision experts recommend that individuals stop smoking, which can negatively affect eye health. Protect your eyes against ultraviolet rays from the sun with good quality sunglasses whenever you are outdoors. If you work at the computer frequently, look away from the screen to prevent eye fatigue. If you work with hazardous chemicals or if there is a danger of wood or metal splinters, wear safety glasses to prevent eye injuries. Individuals who weld should wear helmets with darkening lenses to prevent burning of the cornea. These measures will help to keep your eyes healthy and your vision clear.
If you implement lifestyle changes and follow a healthy diet, you will help to support your ability to see clearly well into your old age. Regular visits to an eye care professional can catch the small vision changes that indicate a vision problem early, so they can be treated effectively. These measures will ensure that your vision allows you participate fully in the beauty and excitement of life, whatever your age.
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