Most adults start to notice a need for glasses as they reach middle age – at least for reading. But aging can affect our eyes in other ways as well. And some of those changes pose more serious problems than the need for a stronger eyeglasses prescription. That’s why regular eye exams are essential for seniors. But how often should you (or your older parent) get your eyes checked?
Every Year, if You Are Over 60
Younger adults can go longer between eye exams, unless they suffer from a chronic condition that negatively affects eyesight. However, many conditions that can impair your vision as you age can also sneak up on you – showing no symptoms until something is very obviously wrong. The American Optometric Association (AOA) says getting an annual exam helps ensure your eyes stay as healthy as possible. They also stress contacting your eye doctor right away if your vision changes.
Age-Related Vision Changes You’d Rather Avoid
It’s not a matter of how clearly you can see, says the AOA. Eye problems can make daily living more difficult when they reduce your depth perception or color perception, alter your effective field of vision, or make you especially sensitive to light or glare. Some eye problems, left untreated, can cause blindness. Common age-related eye problems include:
- Cataracts, which usually affect both eyes, though often one is worse than the other. They create cloudy or opaque areas in the lens which can obstruct or blur normal vision. Cataracts can also increase your light sensitivity but decrease your ability to see well in low-light conditions such as nighttime.
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a progressive disease that causes loss of central vision, the area that allows you to see colors and fine details for reading, watching TV, driving, even recognizing people’s faces.
- Glaucoma -- not a single disease but a group of diseases that have the opposite effect of AMD, causing “tunnel vision” due to loss of peripheral vision. It can be treated, but if it isn’t, it leads to blindness.
- Diabetic retinopathy, a progressive side-effect of diabetes that damages the eye’s blood vessels. Worst case, it can cause blindness. More commonly it causes cloudy vision by weakening the eye’s blood vessels which then leak blood and fluid that cause retinal tissue to swell.
- Dry eye, a common problem that is more common in seniors, because aging diminishes the body’s natural moisture.
You’re at higher risk for later-in-life vision problems if you have:
- High blood pressure or diabetes
- Family history of an eye disease such as macular degeneration or glaucoma
- Take prescription (or non-prescription) medications that can have vision-related side effects
- Previous eye surgery (including for cataracts) or a previous eye injury
Every Year, So You Can See Better, Longer
Whether you choose an eye doctor who is an Optometrist or an Ophthalmologist, be sure to schedule a visit at least once a year. And be honest about any changes you may have noticed in your vision or other concerns you may have, even if they don’t seem significant right now. Early detection can mean the difference between successful correction or management of an emerging condition, rather than unnecessary worsening of your sight and ability to function independently. And knowing you’re doing everything you can to protect your eye health and sight will give you greater peace of mind.
How Can We Help?
Magnolia Manor provides transportation for our residents, so you'll never miss an eye exam. If you have questions about senior living at any of our communities, please give us a call at 855-540-LIFE (5433).