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As I wrote earlier this month, two important baby boomer and senior citizen news items for this month are AMD (Age-Related Macular Degeneration) Month and American Heart Month. I thought of both those when I was reading some interesting information in Mosby's Textbook for Long-Term Care Nursing Assistants this week and thought I'd share some of the bits of info with all of us over the next couple of Thursdays. This week, the eyes have it (pun fully intended and chuckled at :))!
Did you know that some of the common physical changes to our eyes during the aging process include:
- Eyelids thin and wrinkle
- Less tear secretion
- Pupils are less responsive to light
- Decreased vision at night or in dark rooms
- Problems seeing green and blue colors
That last was a real surprise to both my senior mom and myself. Neither of us has seen that, but if you have an aging parent who still drives, be sure to check with them on that AND on whether their vision has decreased during night driving. Both are important to know as you work together on driving safety issues!
I appreciated this great info from The National Institute on Aging and Aging and Your Eyes:
Common Eye Problems
The following common eye problems can be easily treated. But, sometimes they can be signs of more serious issues.
- Presbyopia (prez-bee-OH-pee-uh) is a slow loss of ability to see close objects or small print. It is normal to have this as you get older. People with presbyopia often have headaches or strained, tired eyes. Reading glasses usually fix the problem.
- Floaters are tiny specks or “cobwebs” that seem to float across your vision. You might see them in well-lit rooms or outdoors on a bright day. Floaters can be a normal part of aging. But sometimes they are a sign of a more serious eye problem such as retinal detachment. If you see many new floaters and/or flashes of light, see your eye care professional right away. This is a medical emergency.
- Tearing (or having too many tears) can come from being sensitive to light, wind, or temperature changes, or having dry eyes. Wearing sunglasses may help, as might trying eye drops. Sometimes tearing is a sign of a more serious eye problem, like an infection or a blocked tear duct. Your eye care professional can treat these problems.
- Eyelid problems can result from different diseases or conditions. Common eyelid problems include red and swollen eyelids, itching, tearing, and crusting of eyelashes during sleep. These problems may be caused by a condition called blepharitis (ble-fa-RI-tis) and treated with warm compresses and gentle eyelid scrubs.
Eye Diseases And Disorders
The following eye conditions can lead to vision loss and blindness. They may have few or no early symptoms. Regular eye exams are your best protection. If your eye care professional finds a problem early, there are things you can do to keep your eyesight.
- Cataracts are cloudy areas in the eye’s lens causing blurred or hazy vision. Some cataracts stay small and don’t change your eyesight a lot. Others become large and reduce vision. Cataract surgery can restore good vision. It is a safe and common treatment. If you have a cataract, your eye care professional will watch for changes over time to see if you would benefit from surgery.
- Corneal diseases and conditions can cause redness, watery eyes, pain, problems with vision, or a halo effect of the vision (things appear to have an aura of light around them). Infection and injury are some of the things that can hurt the cornea. Some problems with the cornea are more common in older people. Treatment may be simple—for example, changing your eyeglass prescription or using eye drops. In severe cases, surgery may be needed.
- Dry eye happens when tear glands don’t work well. You may feel itching, burning, or other discomfort. Dry eye is more common as people get older, especially for women. Your eye care professional may tell you to use a home humidifier, special eye drops (artificial tears), or ointments to treat dry eye.
- Glaucoma often comes from too much fluid pressure inside the eye. If not treated, it can lead to vision loss and blindness. People with glaucoma have no early symptoms or pain. You can protect yourself by having regular dilated eye exams. Glaucoma can be treated with prescription eye drops, lasers, or surgery.
- Retinal disorders are a leading cause of blindness in the United States. Retinal disorders that affect aging eyes include:
- Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD. AMD can harm the sharp vision needed to see objects clearly and to do common things like driving and reading. During a dilated eye exam, your eye care professional will look for signs of AMD. There are treatments for AMD. If you have AMD, ask if special dietary supplements could lower your chance of it getting worse.
- Diabetic retinopathy. This problem may occur if you have diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy develops slowly and with no early warning signs. If you have diabetes, be sure to have a dilated eye exam at least once a year. Keeping your blood sugar under control can prevent diabetic retinopathy or slow its progress. Laser surgery can sometimes prevent it from getting worse.
- Retinal detachment. THIS IS A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. When the retina separates from the back of the eye, it’s called retinal detachment. If you see new floaters or light flashes, or if it seems like a curtain has been pulled over your eye, go to your eye care professional right away. With surgery or laser treatment, doctors often can prevent loss of vision.
Low vision means you cannot fix your eyesight with glasses, contact lenses, medicine, or surgery. Low vision affects some people as they age. You may have low vision if you:
- Can’t see well enough to do everyday tasks like reading, cooking, or sewing
- Can’t recognize the faces of your friends or family
- Have trouble reading street signs
- Find that lights don’t seem as bright
If you have any of these problems, ask your eye care professional to test you for low vision. There are special tools that can help people with low vision to read, write, and manage daily tasks. These include large-print reading materials, magnifying aids, closed-circuit televisions, audio tapes, electronic reading machines, and computers with large print and a talking function. Other changes that may help are:
- Change the type of lighting in your room.
- Write with bold, black felt-tip markers.
- Use paper with bold lines to help you write in a straight line.
- Put colored tape on the edge of your steps to help you see them and prevent you from falling.
- Install dark-colored light switches and electrical outlets that you can see easily against light-colored walls.
- Use motion lights that turn on by themselves when you enter a room. These may help you avoid accidents caused by poor lighting.
- Use telephones, clocks, and watches with large numbers; put large-print labels on the microwave and stove.
- Ask your eye doctor if your vision is okay for safe driving.
And for those tech-savvy baby boomers and senior citizens – parents OR caregivers – who are facing losing their sight, there is good news on that front from The Guardian, in their news article, Braille comes unbound from the book: how technology can stop a literary crisis , as they report that "Apple is at the vanguard of a push behind technology that's helping old-fashioned Braille replace text-to-speech audio for the blind – and it couldn't have come at a more critical time…Apple's iPad, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, and third generation iPod Touch already support more than 30 Bluetooth wireless Braille displays."
Interesting, informative, and good eye news for all of us in the Sandwich Generation – including our senior parents OR our grandkids with vision problems of any kind – all year round! So, how about you? Have you or your senior parents noticed anything on these lists? Did you know about the aging eye changes and issues, including blue and green?