Among multiple risk factors, age is a common one for many medical problems – and eye conditions are no exception. Just like your body, your eyes and vision will change over time.
As you age, you may notice that you need more light to see as well as you used to. You may also notice that you have difficulty reading or focusing on near objects. You may even notice changes in tear production or color perception.
While advanced age does increase your risk for developing certain eye conditions, it does not mean they are not preventable or treatable. Of course, you cannot keep yourself from aging, but you can take steps to slow or even prevent the onset of age-related eye conditions.
Some common age-related eye conditions are:
Cataracts specifically offer a unique challenge for those of advancing age. Cataract is cloudiness of the natural lens that we are born with. With time and age that lens becomes so cloudy that it can affect your vision. Cataracts are very common, especially among adults older than 50. By age 65, it is estimated that more than 90% of people have or have had a cataract.
Cataracts are commonly treated surgically by removing the diseased, clouded lens (cataract) and replacing it with an artificial lens implant. Cataract surgery has a high success rate of nearly 98%. While cataracts are highly treatable, there are also things you can do to help slow down progression of this very common eye condition.
Protect your eyes from UV exposure
UV light can irritate and damage the cornea, lens, and surface tissues of the eye. Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation speed up development of cataracts, macular degeneration, or pterygium—a white growth on the clear tissue of the eye.
Just like we protect our skin with sunscreen, we should protect our eyes, too. When you are outdoors, whether it is sunny or cloudy, you are still exposed to UV light. Everyone should wear sunglasses – add a hat for an added layer of protection. Make sure the sunglasses you choose blocks 99-100% of UVA and UVB radiation. Oftentimes the label on the glasses will read “UV absorption up to 400 nm” or “100% UV400 protection”. If you are unsure, always check with your eye health provider. They can provide a trusted recommendation.
Diagnose and treat chronic medical problems
Systemic health conditions like diabetes and hypertension directly impact every part of the body – including the eyes. Prolonged and persistent high blood sugar or pressure can cause the blood vessels in the eye to react by swelling, leaking, or growing in areas and directions they should not. These unwanted changes in your eye can increase your risk of developing retinal issues such as retinal bleeding or swelling. Uncontrolled blood sugar levels can speed up development of cataracts as well.
Keeping your whole body healthy has the power to prevent or postpone age-related eye conditions. Maintain a healthy weight through nutrition and consistent low-impact movement. See your medical doctors at the recommended intervals – primary care and specialists – so that any health problems can be identified and treated to prevent progression.
Never miss an exam
Just like the annual physical with your primary care doctor, an annual comprehensive eye exam with your eye doctor is important. These visits give your eye care provider the opportunity to monitor your eye health over time and increases the possibility of early detection of any ocular problems, sometimes even before the onset of symptoms.
About Nataliya Pokeza, M.D.
Dr. Pokeza is a board-certified comprehensive ophthalmologist and fellowship-trained cornea specialist with experience in advanced corneal transplantation, management of dry eye syndrome and ocular surface disease. She also has a particular interest in cataract surgery, especially in patients with corneal conditions. Dr. Pokeza practices at ReFocus Eye Health: https://refocuseyedoctors.com/