Never Too Late - July 2022


Aging and Your Eyes (continued from page 20) • Maintain normal blood pressure. • Manage diabetes (if you have it). • If you spend a lot of time at the computer or focused on one thing, take a break every 20 minutes to look about 20 feet away for 20 seconds to prevent eye strain. Eye diseases and conditions The following eye problems can lead to vision loss and blindness in older adults. They may have few or no early symptoms. Regular eye exams are your best protection. If your eye care professional finds a problem early, often there are things you can do to protect your vision. • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) can harm the sharp, central vision needed to see objects clearly and to do common things like driving and reading. Your eye care professional will ask about your family history and look for signs of AMD during a dilated eye exam. Treatments are available, and special dietary supplements can help lower your chance of it getting worse. • Diabetic retinopathy may occur if you have diabetes. It develops slowly, often with no early warning signs. If you have diabetes, be sure to have a dilated eye exam at least once a year. Keeping your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol under control can prevent diabetic retinopathy or slow its progress in early stages. Laser surgery in later stages can sometimes prevent it from getting worse. • Cataracts are cloudy areas in the eye’s lens causing blurred or hazy vision. Some cataracts stay small and don’t change your eyesight much. Others become large and reduce vision. Cataract surgery can restore good vision and is a safe and common treatment. If you have a cataract, your eye care professional will watch for changes over time to see if you would benefit from surgery. • Glaucoma is usually caused by too much fluid pressure inside the eye. If not treated, it can lead to vision loss and blindness. People with glaucoma often have no early symptoms or pain. You can help protect yourself by having dilated eye exams yearly. Glaucoma can be treated with prescription eye drops, lasers, or surgery. • Dry eye occurs when tear glands don’t work well. You may feel stinging or burning, a sandy feeling as if something is in the eye, or other discomfort. Dry eye is common as people get older, especially for women. Your eye care professional may tell you to use a home humidifier or air purifier, special eye drops (artificial tears), or ointments to treat dry eye. For more severe cases, treatment options might include prescription medication, tear duct plugs, or surgery.

Signs of an eye emergency See an eye care professional right away if you: • Suddenly cannot see or everything looks blurry • See many new floaters (tiny specks or “cobwebs” that seem to float across your vision) and/or flashes of light • Have eye pain • Experience double vision • Have redness or swelling of your eye or eyelid What is low vision? Low vision means you cannot fix your eyesight with glasses, contact lenses, medication, or surgery. Low vision affects some people as they age. You may have low vision if you: • Can’t see well enough to do everyday tasks like reading or cooking • Have difficulty recognizing the faces of your friends or family • Have trouble reading street signs • Find that lights don’t seem as bright If you have any of these problems, ask your eye care professional to test you for low vision. Vision rehabilitation programs and special aids, such as a magnifying device, can help you adapt to vision loss and make the most of your remaining sight. Remember to ask your eye doctor if it is safe for you to drive with your vision. If you have to stop driving, organizations in your area may be able to arrange rides for you, or public transportation may be available. Other tips that may help: • Use paper with bold lines to help you write in a straight line. • Put colored tape on the edge of any stairs in your home to help you see them and prevent you from falling. • Install dark-colored light switches and electrical outlets so that you can see them easily against light-colored walls. • Use motion lights that turn on when you enter a room. These may help you avoid accidents caused by poor lighting. • Use clocks with large numbers and phones with large screens; put large-print labels on the microwave and stove. • Brighten the lighting in your room. • Write with bold, black felt-tip markers.

Source: NIH, National Eye Institute

Page 32 | July 2022, Never Too Late

Pima Council on Aging

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