Keeping Your Eyes Healthy as You Age

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Keeping your eyes healthy as you age is a vital part of feeling your best and maintaining your quality of life. But, it is a fact of life your eyes are eventually affected by age. For some, changes in eyesight may happen in your 40s and 50s, but most people start experiencing age-related eye issues around 65 years of age.

Dr. Michael Wehmann, an Ophthalmologist at St. Elizabeth Physicians, says, “The best way to maintain eye health as you age is to have a comprehensive eye exam regularly. The three most common types of age-related eye disease—cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma—often have no symptoms and can’t be detected without a professional exam.”

Common Eye Concerns for Adults

If caught early, many age-related eye diseases can be controlled or even cured. The most common issues include:

  • Cataracts. Cataracts occur in everyone as they age. Your eye’s natural lens becomes cloudy and the loss of vision interferes with regular activities, especially glare symptoms with night driving. You can manage cataracts conservatively by wearing eyeglasses but surgery can cure your cataracts and improve your vision.
  • Macular Degeneration. Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in patients over the age of 65. People who smoke can have a more aggressive form which can damage vision quickly and more severely. Symptoms aren’t typically noticed until later stages of the disease. With regular eye exams and early detection, macular degeneration treatments can reduce and, in some cases stop, vision loss.
  • Glaucoma. Glaucoma is very common in people over the age of 55. The disease leads to a buildup of fluid in the eye and increased eye pressure which causes damage to the optic nerve. It usually affects the peripheral or side vision first. In the early stages of the disease, most people do not have any symptoms. There is no cure for glaucoma, but the progression can be slowed or even halted. Depending on symptoms and stage of the disease, treatments range from eye drops to laser treatment or surgery.

See Better Longer

There are some things that you can do to keep age-related eye disease at bay, including:

  • Wearing UV eye protection when you are in the sun.
  • If you have diabetes, get your blood sugars and A1C checked regularly. Also get an annual eye exam to monitor for diabetic retinopathy.
  • Avoid long-term use of oral steroids, such as prednisone, as they can increase your risk for cataracts.
  • Wear eye protection when you are working on motorized equipment or playing contact sports.
  • Avoid smoking, as it worsens cataracts and increases the risk of macular degeneration.
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet.
  • Wear an up-to-date eye prescription, if needed.
  • Take a break from screen time every hour for at least 10 minutes and keep your eyes lubricated.

“Your eyes and your vision have a big impact on your quality of life,” says Dr. Wehmann. “Don’t forget regular eye exams in the years when you are putting a lot of strain on your eyes with intensive reading and computer time. It is worth the investment to make sure you aren’t developing problems which could be treatable or preventable.”

Dr. Wehmann recommends you start seeing an ophthalmologist at age 40 and follow recommendations for follow-up. After the age of 50, you should have a comprehensive eye exam every one to five years, depending on your eye health and glasses needs.

If you haven’t had an eye exam in over 12 months, talk to your primary care physician or call (800) 737-7900 to schedule an appointment with a St. Elizabeth Physicians Ophthalmologist.