advances in modern medicine, personal care and
nutrition, there has been an explosion in the quality of
life that adults are able to enjoy as they age. The
pleasure that stems from having freedom and independence
is immense, so what would you do if you were unable to
enjoy the same things in life because of a loss of
You may be at
higher risk of developing eye diseases and conditions as
you age, some of which can lead to permanent vision loss
and blindness. Age-related eye diseases often have no
symptoms, but can be detected in their early stages
through a comprehensive dilated eye exam. Different from
the basic exam you have for glasses or contact lenses, a
comprehensive dilated eye exam allows your eye care
professional to provide a full assessment of the health
of your eyes. During this exam, he or she will put drops
in your eyes to dilate the pupils and examine the backs
of your eyes for any signs of eye disease. If diseases
are detected, they can be treated early, before vision
loss occurs. Here is a list of common age-related
eye diseases and conditions.
degeneration (AMD) most often occurs among
people age 60 and older. It gradually destroys the
macula, the part of the eye that provides sharp, central
vision needed for seeing objects clearly. Common risk
factors are smoking, obesity, family history, and race,
with Caucasians being the most likely affected.
Cataract is a
clouding of the lens in the eye, most commonly
associated with aging, but smoking, prolonged exposure
to sunlight, and having diabetes are also risk factors.
Cataract makes what you see appear cloudy or blurry, and
can make it difficult to drive at night because of glare
eye disease is a group of diseases associated
with diabetes. The most common is diabetic retinopathy,
which damages blood vessels in the retina. Leaky blood
vessels cause dark spots to appear in peopleís vision.
All people with diabetes, both type 1 and 2, are at
risk. The longer a person has diabetes, the higher is
his or her risk of developing diabetic eye disease.
Glaucoma is a group
of diseases that damage the optic nerve. Primary
open-angle glaucoma (POAG) is the most common form and
is a leading cause of blindness in African Americans and
Mexican Americans. POAG has no early signs. As it
progresses, peripheral vision begins to disappear. Left
untreated, POAG can cause blindness.
If you are over
age 50, making comprehensive dilated eye exams part of
your routine health care is the best thing you can do to
protect your sight. Donít wait to experience symptoms
before you get your eyes examined because vision that is
lost often cannot be restored.
information about eye health, caring for your vision,
tips for finding an eye care professional, or a list of
organizations that can help provide financial assistance
for eye care, visit the National Eye Institute (NEI)
Healthy Eyes Web site at
NEI is one of the National Institutes of Health and is
the federal governmentís lead agency for vision research
that leads to sight-saving treatments.
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