Age-related eye diseases, such as cataracts, macular degeneration, and glaucoma, are becoming more prevalent each year. The number of people affected by these aging vision problems continues to grow. According to the CDC, approximately 20.5 million people over the age of 40 in the U.S. have cataracts. Experts expect this number will increase to 30 million by 2028 — a staggering 50 percent increase. Three million people have glaucoma and another three million will be diagnosed with macular degeneration this year.
Those are some serious numbers and it’s important to understand what can be done to try to lower them. While many eye problems cannot be completely cured, there are some that can be prevented or have their onset delayed or severity lessened. You can lower your risk for developing these eye problems by making a few lifestyle changes and scheduling regular eye exams.
No age group is exempt from eye disease. We all have to be careful, and that includes the very elderly, Baby Boomers, GenX-ers, Millennials and sadly, even children. But alarmingly, people are developing eye and vision problems such as cataracts at younger ages now. Macular degeneration can affect younger patients, as well. That’s why it’s especially important to take precautions as early as possible to ensure your eyes remain healthy and strong for as long as possible.
Most Common Aging Vision Problems
Cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration are among the most common eye problems that aging people deal with each year. While each of these problems is generally thought to be associated with older age, younger people can develop them, too.
Young people can develop cataracts, especially if they are already nearsighted. The blurry vision that is caused by cataracts can be managed at first by changing your eyeglass prescription. However, as the condition progresses, it may cause interference with being able to perform day-to-day activities. At that point, surgery may be necessary to correct the problem.
Is Surgery the Answer… or Even a Possibility?
Cataract surgery is a very common procedure. It can be completed in as little as 30 minutes in a doctor’s office and it’s considered to be extremely safe. The doctor will go in and remove the cataract and then replace it with an artificial lens, which can be adjusted to correct your vision. This surgery has a high success rate. Most people who have the surgery performed report that they can actually see better after the surgery than they have in a long time.
Unfortunately, there isn’t such a successful fix for glaucoma, which is caused by damage to the optic nerve. Glaucoma can cause vision loss and is the leading cause of blindness. One warning sign is a decline in peripheral vision in one or both eyes. There is no way to reverse the effects of the disease, but it is possible to delay its progression. The first step is to have regular eye exams to monitor the glaucoma and to check for any additional vision problems. The test for glaucoma is quick and painless. The doctor will have you rest your face in a device that measures the pressure in your eyes.
It is recommended by the Mayo Clinic that you have an eye exam every two to four years between the ages of 40-54. If you are between 55-60, the frequency increases to every one to three years and every one to two years for age 65 and older. If you are at risk for developing age-related eye diseases or glaucoma, you should be seen more frequently.
It is important to stick to these recommendations so that glaucoma can be detected as early as possible. That way, treatments can begin to delay the progression of the disease. Eye drops may help relieve pressure on the eyes or sometimes surgery or laser treatment can help reduce the pressure.
With age-related macular degeneration, the retinal cells begin to deteriorate and can lead to vision loss and blindness. However, when the disease is caught early, it is possible to maintain good vision with proper treatment. Treatment depends on whether you have dry or wet macular degeneration.
Preserving Your Eyesight
Other than receiving regular eye exams and getting treatments for any existing eye problems, you can stave off eye diseases with proper nutrition. Eating foods that contain antioxidants including vitamins A and E, lutein, beta carotene, copper, zeaxanthine and zinc, can boost your eye health and improve your vision. In addition to eating foods that contain these nutrients, you can also take daily vitamin supplements to ensure you are getting the needed amounts of each of these nutrients. In fact, nutritional therapy is a recommended treatment for dry macular degeneration.
Stay vigilant! You should also pay special attention to any changes in your vision. If your vision becomes blurry or you begin seeing spots or anything else unusual, see your eye doctor for an exam as there may be a problem. If you are a smoker, quitting will decrease your risk of developing eye diseases and other vision problems. Losing weight if you are obese and controlling high blood pressure or blood sugars if you’re diabetic will also decrease your risks. Always protect your eyes from the sun with UV-blocking sunglasses. These lifestyle tweaks can make a huge difference.
Don’t Become Another Statistic!
There are many factors that can cause these eye disorders. While the most commonly-associated culprits are age and chronic conditions like hypertension and diabetes, there are other causes. Among those are heredity, excessive use of steroids, high consumption of alcohol and over-exposure to sunlight.
You can prevent or at least stave off the onset of these conditions by taking steps to save your eyesight. If more people who take care of their eye health to preserve their vision for as long a possible, the number of incidents of eye diseases, loss of vision, and blindness will decrease. Do everything you can to protect your precious eyesight — regardless of your age!