Some vision changes are normal for seniors as they get older. But, seniors are prone to several eye diseases that can cause permanent damage to their eyes and cause problems with their vision. It’s very important for seniors to get eye exams at least once a year to track any changes in their vision. And it’s important for seniors to get seen by an eye doctor who can make sure that their eyes are healthy.
Some eye diseases can be treated or reversed if they are caught early enough. That’s one of the many reasons why doctors strongly encourage seniors to get regular eye exams. If seniors notice any sudden or severe changes to their eyes or vision they should see an eye doctor immediately. And seniors should learn the symptoms of these common eye diseases that impact seniors.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
Age-related macular degeneration is a leading cause of severe vision loss among seniors. It affects the macula, the central part of the retina responsible for sharp central vision. AMD can progress slowly (dry AMD) or rapidly (wet AMD) and may cause blurriness, distortion, or a blind spot in the central field of vision. Seniors who have AMD should have home care assistance. With home care assistance, seniors will have the support they need to continue living safely at home.
Cataracts are a natural part of the aging process. They occur when the eye’s natural lens becomes cloudy, leading to blurred or cloudy vision. Seniors with cataracts may experience difficulty with night vision, glare from lights, and faded colors. Cataracts may be able to removed by an eye surgeon.
Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions characterized by increased intraocular pressure, which can damage the optic nerve. Often called the “silent thief of sight,” glaucoma can progress without symptoms until vision loss occurs. Seniors may experience peripheral vision loss and, if left untreated, eventual central vision impairment.
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that affects the blood vessels in the retina. High blood sugar levels can damage these vessels, leading to vision problems. Seniors with diabetes may experience blurry vision, floaters, or even blindness if the condition progresses. Seniors who have diabetes need to make managing their condition a priority to avoid the serious health problems that can be caused by diabetes.
Dry Eye Syndrome
Dry eye syndrome becomes more common with age and is often caused by decreased tear production or changes in the composition of tears. Side effects from medications can also cause dry eye syndrome. Seniors may experience stinging, burning, itching, redness, or a feeling of grittiness in the eyes.
Presbyopia is a natural age-related condition that affects near vision. It occurs because the eye’s lens becomes less flexible, making it difficult to focus on close objects. Seniors may require reading glasses or bifocals to compensate for this loss of near vision.
Retinal detachment can occur when the retina pulls away from the back of the eye. Seniors with retinal detachment may notice sudden flashes of light, floaters, or a shadow or curtain descending over their field of vision. This is a medical emergency and requires immediate attention.
Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids that becomes more common with age. It can cause red, swollen eyelids, itching, burning, and crusty or greasy eyelashes.
Floaters and Flashes
While not a disease per se, seniors may experience an increase in floaters (tiny specks or strands that seem to float across their field of vision) and flashes of light. These may be harmless but can sometimes indicate retinal issues and should be checked by an eye specialist.
A macular hole is a small break or tear in the macula, leading to distorted or blurred central vision. It can be more common in seniors and may require surgical intervention to repair.
Seniors may be at higher risk for various corneal conditions, such as Fuchs’ dystrophy, which can cause blurred vision and discomfort.