Conditions That Affect Older Eyes...
It is normal for our eyes to change as we get older. Even in our forties we can start to lose the ability to focus on things that are close, inevitably meaning we take longer to adapt to different focusses and require more light for certain tasks. This is called Presbyopia and can of be helped with good lighting, possibly a change in prescription or the addition of reading glasses.
Once we get into our sixties and beyond it is more likely that we will develop some form of eye disease. The most common of these are Cataracts, Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and Glaucoma. If caught early enough, most eye diseases can be treated, so it is important if you notice your vision changing, to get in touch with a member of my eyecare team, and make an appointment for a review of your vision.
We do have many comprehensive leaflets on eye disorders at both practices, but for convenience I've detailed below some basic information which I hope you find useful. I would reiterate, if you feel your vision is changing, please make an appointment to see us.
What is it... A Cataract is a clouding of the lens impairing vision.
What causes them... Cataracts are mainly an age related condition. As with many other conditions, smoking and exposure to sunlight have also been linked to their formation.
Who has them... Cataracts are normally associated with older eyes. Younger eyes can have them as a result of injury, a medical condition, or even occasionally as a result of certain medication. We have found that most people will eventually develop a cataract in both eyes, although quite often one eye may be affected before the other. It is fortunate that cataracts can be easily diagnosed and surgical treatment is available.
Signs to look out for...You may need to change the prescription of your glasses more frequently. You may be aware of increased glare and dazzle. You may notice your vision is not as sharp or is a bit hazy. Once a cataract is diagnosed your Optometrist may be able to improve your vision with an update to your glasses. However, if no more can be done and your day to day life is affected, surgery is the next step.
What is involved in treatment.. An operation under local anaesthetic lasting approximately thirty minutes where the cloudy lens from your eye is removed and replaced with a clear plastic lens. After surgery your eye will be covered to protect it and eyedrops will be recommended for several weeks to help prevent infection and inflammation. Once the eye is healed your doctor will normally recommend an appointment with us to sort out replacement spectacles.
What is it... Macular Degeneration is damage to the central part of the Retina, called the Macular. It is the leading cause of blindness in the UK, although peripheral vision (side vision) is retained. Age related Macular Degeneration (AMD) can be either dry or wet. Dry AMD is much more common than wet and is when deposits build up within the retina and affect its function. This may in time affect your vision, although the deterioration is normally slow. No treatment is available for dry AMD at the moment. Wet AMD is when abnormal blood vessels grow within the retina and leak fluid. This pushes the Macula away from its blood supply at the back of the eye and causes a more rapid loss of vision, and often distorted vision.
What causes it... The exact cause of Macular Degeneration is not known, but it has been linked to certain lifestyle choices such as smoking and exposure to sunlight as well as a possible hereditary link.
Who has it... The most common types of MD are more common in older eyes, and are known as age related macular degeneration (AMD). Around 1 in 10 people aged 65 or older will have some signs of AMD.
Signs to look out for... Difficulty in seeing detail while reading or watching television as well as a problem recognising people's faces. If you notice blurred or distorted vision it is important to see your Optometrist immediately.
What is involved in treatment... There is no treatment for Dry AMD. Wet AMD can often be treated if it is caught early enough, this is done by an injection of a drug into the eye. This acts by shrinking the abnormal blood vessels and allowing the retina to return to normal. The injection may need to be repeated every few weeks, for several months.
What is it... Glaucoma is when the pressure inside your eye causes damage to the nerve at the back of your eye. The most common type is painless and causes no symptoms in the early stages, and it is at this stage that we would want to detect a problem as any nerve damage is irreversible.
Who has it... You are more at risk of Glaucoma if you are over 40, very short sighted, of African or Caribbean origin, or if you are closely related to someone with Glaucoma.
Signs to look out for... Unfortunately the most common type is painless and causes no symptoms in the early stages, and it is at this stage that we would want to detect a problem, as any nerve damage is irreversible. It is always important to have regular eye examinations as you get older, but if you fall into the 'Who has it' category in particular, it is imperative, as left untreated Glaucoma can lead to a loss of peripheral vision and eventually blindness.
What treatment is involved... daily eyedrops to reduce the pressure and further eye damage.
THE GOOD NEWS IS...
There Are Steps We Can Take To Help Maintain Good Eyesight...
- Regular Eye Examinations -This will allow your Optometrist to spot early signs of eye disease, when it may be easier to treat. Most people should have an eye examination at least every two years; for some people the advice may be annual or even more frequent examinations.
- Stop Smoking - Smoking has been linked to AMD and cataracts. Visit www.nhs.uk/smokefree for more information.
- Healthy Diet - Eat a diet rich in leafy greens and coloured fruit and veg as well as maintaining a healthy weight - this may reduce your chances of developing AMD.
- Know Your Eyes - Be aware of your vision in each eye separately. Many conditions appear in one eye first - if you regularly check each eye separately with glasses if worn, you are more likely to notice changes. Things to look out for include distortion, or noticing blank or blurry areas in your vision.
- Wear Sunglasses - Wear UV absorbing sunglasses to protect your eyes from sunlight. Some studies have shown that exposure to high levels of UV throughout your life may increase your risk of Cataract, and possibly AMD.
- Eye Protection - Protect your eyes when doing DIY, or certain sports such as squash. Toughened lenses are available for glasses to provide extra protection from impact.