Donít Let Eye Disease Slow You Down

 

 

Thanks to 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 vision?

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.

Age-related macular 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 from lights.

Diabetic 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.

For more 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 http://www.nei.nih.gov/agingeye. 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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