September is Healthy Aging Month! As we age, preserving eyesight becomes a more critical element to overall health. Particularly after the age of 60, there are necessary steps to take to maintain eyesight and prevent age-related eye diseases. This month, we’re focusing on common age-related eye diseases and the steps you can take to protect yourself from them.
The first disease we are featuring is cataracts. A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens of your eye, making it seem as if you are looking through a frosty or fogged-up window. Most develop slowly and don’t disturb eyesight early on. Over time, however, cataracts will interfere with vision and cause issues.
There are several risk factors for cataracts, including:
- Increasing age
- Excessive exposure to sunlight
- High blood pressure
- Previous eye injury or inflammation
- Previous eye surgery
- Prolonged use of corticosteroid medications
- Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
As you approach 60, our expert ophthalmologists advise that you maintain comprehensive eye exams and see your eye doctor with any concerns that arise. While you cannot keep yourself from getting older, there are steps you can take to slow or even prevent conditions like cataracts. These include wearing sunglasses, maintaining a healthy weight, and never missing an eye exam.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
A chronic disease, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is defined as the deterioration of the central part of the retina. It has two variations – dry AMD and wet AMD. Dry AMD is changes in the macular pigment that are seen during a dilated examination. Wet AMD is abnormal leaky blood vessels that grow underneath the retina.
Similarly to cataracts, primary risk factors for AMD include:
- Race – AMD is more common among Caucasians
Leading a healthy lifestyle, particularly after turning 60, is critical to preventing the development of AMD. As the leading cause of blindness – affecting more than 10 million Americans – AMD is a debilitating disease that can lead to wavy and blurred vision as well as complete vision loss. Partnering with your ophthalmologist to ensure you understand AMD, and the ways to prevent it, will set you up for healthy eyes as you age. Lifestyle choices to prevent AMD are similar to those for cataracts – eating a healthy diet, wearing sunglasses, maintaining regular eye exams – and your ophthalmologist can offer tailored recommendations for your lifestyle as well.
Glaucoma refers to a group of progressive diseases in which cells and fibers of the optic nerve are damaged, affecting the transmission of signals from the eye to the brain. The most common form is Primary Open Angle Glaucoma (POAG). While symptoms may not present at first, eventually as the disease progresses field of vision can narrow and potentially lead to blindness.
Individuals with a family history of glaucoma, or over the age of 60, are at a heightened risk for developing it. While it may not be possible to prevent glaucoma entirely, there are specific actions to help slow its progression. These include:
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Avoiding smoking
- Practicing good dental hygiene
- Getting regular screenings for glaucoma, especially if there’s a history of the condition in your family
As with all age-related eye diseases, our team of expert ophthalmologists are here to support and guide you. Visit here to schedule a comprehensive eye exam, so you can ensure you are on the path for healthy aging of the eyes.