September is Healthy Aging Month so this month we will focus our blog posts on raising awareness of eye health among older adults. Older adults are more at risk for certain eye diseases and conditions and regular eye exams can help detect these diseases early on so treatment can be started right away. This blog post will focus on the eye diseases and conditions Ophthalmologist focus on during an exam:
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD): Macular Degeneration is caused by the deterioration of the central portion of the retina, the inside back layer of the eye that records the images we see and sends them via the optic nerve from the eye to the brain. The retina’s central portion, known as the macula, is responsible for focusing central vision in the eye, and it controls our ability to read, drive a car, recognize faces or colors, and see objects in fine detail. Macular Degeneration is considered an incurable eye disease and causes vision loss. (www.macular.org)
- Glaucoma, a group of conditions that can cause fluid and pressure to build up in the eye and damage the optic nerve. It is a complicated disease in which damage to the optic nerve leads to progressive, irreversible vision loss. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness. (www.glaucoma.org)
- Dry eye is a condition that occurs whenever the eye does not produce tears properly or when tears dissipate too rapidly. Dry eye causes a scratchy sensation or the feeling that something is in the eye. Other symptoms include stinging or burning, episodes of excess tearing that follow periods of dryness, discharge, pain, and redness in the eye. People with dry eye may also feel as if their eyelids are heavy and may experience blurred vision. (www.nei.nih.gov/health/dryeye/dryeye)
- Diabetic retinopathy affects blood vessels in the light-sensitive tissue called the retina that lines the back of the eye. It is the most common cause of vision loss among people with diabetes and the leading cause of vision impairment and blindness among working-age adults. (www.nei.nih.gov/health/diabetic/retinopathy)
- Low vision is a physical disability that cannot be corrected by normal eyeglasses, contact lenses, medication, or surgery that disrupts the capability to perform daily activities. Eye diseases, such as macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, & retinitis pigmentosa, are the leading causes of low vision. (www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/low-vision)
- Cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision. Most cataracts develop slowly and don’t affect your eyesight at first; but with time, cataracts will eventually interfere with your vision. (www.nei.nih.gov/health/cataract/cataract_facts)
A comprehensive eye exam that includes dilating the eyes is required to get a view of the back of the eye and the entire retina. The eye doctor will use special drops that will take about 15-30 minutes to dilate the eyes. It does take 4 to 6 hours for the effects to wear off so bring a friend or family member who can drive you home. While the eyes are dilated, the eye doctor will be able to better determine or diagnosis any eye diseases or conditions.
Besides the aging process there are other risk factors involved in eye diseases. These include family history, smoking, being obese, having diabetes and/or other medical conditions. Always update your eye doctor if there is any change to your health or diagnosed conditions.
Our next blog post will focus on healthy habits that can help prevent eye diseases and conditions.