Numerous studies have shown that women tend to live longer than men. From birth to death, women seem to have a leg up on men when it comes to overall health. Aging men are more likely to develop heart disease, gum disease and Parkinson’s disease, just to name a few.
However, the opposite has been found when it comes to eye heath. Women are at a much higher risk of developing vision impairments than men in old age, except in certain cases.
As we age, our eyes will no doubt wither. Just because female eyes tend to lose their eye stamina more quickly, doesn’t mean that aging male eyes aren’t at risk. In fact, there are a few eye diseases that mostly affect aging men.
Let’s take a look at what to look out for, how to treat vision conditions and how to take care of men’s eyes as they age.
Primary Open-Angel Glaucoma
Primary open-angle glaucoma, or POAG, is probably the most common type of glaucoma in men. This is a sneaky disease in that most men are not aware that they have it before it’s too late. Often POAG will develop without warning. This will likely begin to develop in men over the age of 40 years old.
This type of glaucoma is caused by an imbalance of fluid in the eye. Sometimes too much fluid is produced to be drained at a normal rate. Sometimes a normal amount is being produced, but the draining in the eyes is slowed down when it becomes blocked. The former is the more common cause.
Regardless of the cause, the bottom line is that too much pressure will build up in the eye. There is always pressure in the eye, called intraocular pressure (IOP). When the IOP becomes too much, it presses down on optic nerves that transmit messages to the brain.
As the pressure builds, men with POAG will experience vision loss. Normally you will notice a decrease, then a loss of peripheral vision. The blindness will then work its way towards your central vision.
Though our peripheral vision is incredibly important for doing activities like driving and accessing dangers (i.e. when crossing the street or playing a sport), our central vision is our pride and glory.
When the central vision is affected, it normally means that permanent damage to the eye has been done. The chances of reversing the blindness are slim to none.
The best way for aging men to avoid permanent damage to the eyes due to POAG is to get regular comprehensive eye exams. These eyes exams will spot early signs of POAG to better treat it and to hopefully hold off the blindness.
Glaucoma is sometimes treated with eye drops or medication to keep the IOP under control. In most cases, this is enough treatment. But in some more severe or developed cases, glaucoma surgery may be needed to lower the dangerously high IOP. Talk to your doctor to find the best option for you.
Ocular rosacea is an irritant that occurs on the eyelids. Though more women experience mild versions of ocular rosacea, men between the ages of 30 and 60 are much more likely to develop severe cases of the condition.
Rosacea on the cheeks and nose are often indicator of your risk of developing ocular rosacea. Ocular rosacea can cause inflammation around and on the eyelids, dry eyes and in severe cases, corneal inflammation.
When ocular rosacea makes its way to the cornea it may lead to a corneal ulcer, which then can lead to bacteria and infection. When left untreated, this ulcer can puncture the eye, causing numerous complications including irreversible blindness.
Fortunately, the treatment for ocular rosacea is quite simple but will require dedication. So men, you better make some time to pamper yourself with a daily eyelid hygiene routine. Often, doctors will recommend cleaning the eyelid with a Q-tip moist with dilute baby shampoo, but some will simply tell you to use plain old tap water.
Some severe cases may call for a treatment that is a combination of a prescribed antibiotic to be ingested with an antibiotic-steroid ointment for topical application. The amount of time you’ll need to use these antibiotics will vary from case to case. Talk to your doctor about the best option for you.
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Eye Cancer/Eye Melanoma
Eye cancer or more specifically eye melanoma is incredibly common in men. A man’s risk to develop this disease only increases with age. Eye melanoma is found in the cells that produce melanin, which is the pigment that gives your eyes color.
What causes eye melanoma continues to be a mystery. However, it is clear that it is caused by a DNA error within the melanin cells. This error tells cell to multiply uncontrollably and let the mutated cells live, when normally they would die. The mutated cells accumulate and cause melanoma.
Some symptoms of eye melanoma are:
- Loss of vision in one eye
- Growing dark spots on the iris
- Seeing flashing lights
- Floaters in your vision
It is recommended to see a doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.
Eye melanoma normally forms inside the eye and the whites of the eye. However, rare melanoma cases may form on the front layer of the eye called the conjunctiva or sometimes it can even form on the eyelids.
Because melanoma can affect almost every part of your eye, treatments depend heavily on where the cancer is located and the size of it.
For small eye melanomas, no treatment may be necessary. If the eye melanoma is small and does not continue to grow, the only treatment you may need is to monitor it with your doctor. If it continues to grow your doctor may suggest surgery.
If the eye melanoma continues to grow, it may be necessary to have it surgically removed. In some extreme cases, the whole eye may have to be removed. An artificial eye would then take its place.
Another treatment is radiation therapy. Over the course of five days, a plaque the size of a bottle cap is placed over your eye as the radiation targets the melanoma. This treatment is typically used for medium sized melanoma.
Though it is not certain what causes eye melanoma, doctors always recommend wearing sunglasses and hats whenever out in the sun. This will protect your eyes and skin from developing melanoma.
As we get older, our bodies can’t bounce back quite as quick, which means we need to take extra care. Take care of your aging eyes to preserve your sight and prevent blindness and other debilitating age-related eye diseases.