After years of faithful service, our bodies begin to slow down and we begin to be more at risk for all kinds of chronic conditions and health concerns. But that doesn’t have to stop you from living well as an active and independent older adult.
We believe that being forewarned is being forearmed when it comes to senior healthcare. Prepare yourself to combat the age-related conditions that can chip away at your independence by educating yourself on some of the most common health problems you may face as an older adult.
Eye and Vision Problems
The freedom offered by the ability to drive is often a symbol of independence as an older adult, but the freedom of the open road can be brought to a swift end if you don’t keep your eyes healthy. There are plenty of physical changes that can compromise your ability to drive safely as you get older, including 4 common age-related conditions that diminish your eyesight.
1. Age-related macular degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of impaired vision in older Americans. It is a condition that affects the macula, the part of the eye that allows you to see fine detail, and diminishes your ability to perform tasks, like operating a vehicle, that require you to see straight ahead.
The condition presents in 1 of 2 ways:
- Dry AMD occurs when the macula thins and stops functioning properly. The condition progresses slowly, but it has no known cure. Dry AMD represents 90 percent of all cases.
- Wet AMD is caused by fluids leaking from blood vessels under the macula. The condition progresses rapidly, but it can be treated if caught in the early stages of development.
- Blurred vision
- Obstructions like wavy lines or blind spots in the center of the field of vision
2. Diabetic retinopathy
If you have diabetes, you are at greater risk for diabetic retinopathy, a condition where too much sugar in the blood can cause permanent damage to the blood vessels in the retina.
- spots or floaters, especially in the center of your field of vision
- sight that seems smudged or blurry
- Impaired night vision
Cataracts cause a clouding of the lens, the clear part of the eye behind the iris and the pupil that helps to focus light, or an image on the retina.
There are 3 basic types of cataracts each found in different places on the lens:
- the central layer of the lens called the nucleus
- the cortex layer of the lens that surrounds the nucleus
- the back of the capsule, the outermost layer of the lens
- Colors that seem faded or yellowed
- Sensitivity to light that causes lights to appear too bright or form a halo
- Poor night vision
- Double vision or multiple images in one eye that may eventually fade
- Constant need to change or update the prescription of your eyeglasses or contact lenses
Glaucoma is a collection of diseases that affect the optic nerve—the bundle of over a million fibers that transmit light and images from the retina to the brain—and is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States.
There are two types of glaucoma common in senior healthcare:
- Open-Angle, which represents 90% of all diagnoses, occurs when pressure builds in the eye as fluid is slowed down when it passes through the spongy framework of the eye’s drainage canal.
- Angle-Closure is less common, but it develops more rapidly. In angle-closure glaucoma, eye pressure rises sharply as fluid is obstructed by a narrowing or other blockage in the drainage canal at the angle of the iris and cornea.
There are very few warning signs during the early stages of the disease. In Angle-Closure or in the more advanced stages of Open-Angle glaucoma, however, the optic nerve is damaged by rising pressure which can cause a number of symptoms:
- Eye pain resulting in nausea and vomiting
- Impaired night vision
- Blurred vision or other distortions such as halos around lights
- Reddening of the eye
Senior healthcare doesn’t have to be a chore when you take steps to live well and stay active as you get older. Educate yourself on the warning signs of serious eye and vision problems and talk to your healthcare provider about your risks.