Healthy Vision: Taking Care of Your Eyes as You Age

The Roman statesman, Marcus Tullius Cicero once said, “the eyes are the window to the soul.” In reality however, the eyes are the window to hidden health conditions. A dilated eye exam can detect diabetes, hypertension, auto-immune disorders, like Lupus, high cholesterol, thyroid disease, certain cancers, like skin cancer, and tumors, before these medical conditions are confirmed with blood tests or other diagnostic testing.

Individuals with “good” eyes should have their eyes examined once every two years. Other folks should consult with their eye doctor to determine how often to follow-up for chronic conditions like glaucoma, cataracts, nearsightedness, and farsightedness.

Protecting your vision

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends nine ways to protect vision:

  1.    Get a dilated eye exam annually to check for common problems;
  2.    Know your family’s eye health history;
  3.    Eat dark leafy greens such as kale, collard greens, and fish high in omega-3 fatty acids;
  4.    Maintain healthy weight;
  5.    Wear protective eyewear when playing sports or doing activities outside;
  6.    Quit smoking;
  7.    Wear sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UUB radiation;
  8.    Clean your hands and your contact lenses properly to avoid the risk of infection; and
  9.    Practice workplace eye safety.

Common visual problems as we age

According to the National Eye Institute, as we age, humans experience nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, and presbyopia, in various stages. A quick primer on these conditions follows:

  •   Myopia (nearsightedness): A far away object appears blurry and an up-close object appears clear.
  •   Hyperopia (farsightedness): A far away object is clear and close objects appear blurry.
  •   Astigmatism: The eye has difficulty focusing light evenly in the retina. As a result, objects appear blurry and stretched out.
  •   Presbyopia:  Loss of near focusing ability that occurs with age.

Other vision problems are more complex and may significantly diminish the ability of a sufferer to see. They include,

  •   Age related macular degeneration (AMD);
  •   Cataract;
  •   Glaucoma;
  •   Dry eye; and
  •   Low vision.

Poor vision makes it hard to enjoy enjoyable activities like reading, driving, cooking, and even watching television. Everyday tasks like shopping or writing become challenging and stay challenging without medical attention.

Start with a dilated eye exam

At least every two years, individuals should check their eyes with a dilated eye exam. During the exam, the eye doctor puts eyedrops in your eyes that cause the pupil to enlarge. This provides the doctor a more complete view of the eye. Pupils remain enlarged or open for three to four hours following the exam.

Maintain your driving independence

There is no age limit to drive in New York State. The New York State Department of Motor Vehicle would like older drivers to maintain their driving independence as long as possible. Older drivers, however, must ensure that they drive safely and address any vision problems that may potentially impact their ability to drive when it occurs.

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