Older Adults and Vision Health

may2014_article1“As a physician, I can tell you that one ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, particularly where eye disease is concerned. Seventy-five per cent of vision loss is preventable or treatable. Let’s help Canadians take action to save their sight.”
~ Asha Seth, Senator and national CNIB board member

According to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), after the age of 40, the number of cases of blindness or partial sight in Canada doubles. At age 75 it triples. The most common eye conditions that affect older adults are age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and cataracts.

To ensure older Canadians are doing everything they can to protect their eyesight the CNIB has created a Healthy Vision Checklist for Older Adults. The CNIB recommends the following eye care strategies for older adults aged 65+.

Get an eye exam at least once a year.
A recent CNIB study reported “among Canadians who hadn’t had an eye exam in the past two years, more than half said the reason was they believed they have good vision. But many serious eye diseases that can cause vision loss have no symptoms and can only be detected through a comprehensive eye exam”. For example, glaucoma has no symptoms until significant vision changes happen. Check the Doctors of Optometry Canada link for a list of eye doctors in your area.

Check with a doctor to find out if any other medical conditions are affecting your vision and eye health.
There are many health conditions that can affect vision and eye health such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Know how to spot the signs of vision loss.
Vision loss from eye disease is not a normal part of aging. Age is a risk factor for many conditions but eye disease can be prevented and treated at any age. Signs of vision loss can include:
–       Increased sensitivity to light and glare
–       Difficulty distinguishing colours
–       More clumsiness than usual
–       Difficulty distinguishing objects
–       Reduced night vision
–       Straight lines appearing wavy
–       Trouble reading small print
–       Difficulty recognizing faces

Test eyesight at home regularly.
In addition to annual eye exams, download the Amsler Grid and post in your home. This screening tool monitors for early signs of AMD, the leading cause of vision loss in Canadians over 50.

Protect eyes from injuries.
Protect your eyes at home from grease spatters by using a grease shield. Be sure spray can nozzles are facing away from you before using. Before mowing the lawn remove rocks and sticks and wear protective glasses. Be sure to wear sunglasses all year round. The CNIB warns that, “exposure to harmful UV rays is associated with a higher risk of developing AMD, cataracts, eyelid skin cancer and tissue growths on the surface of the eye”.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Nutrition can have a large affect on vision health. CNIB has prepared eye-healthy recipes that are full of the nutrients vitamin A, C and E, lutein, omega-3 fatty acids and zinc. For more information on nutrition related to vision health check out the CNIB’s from A to Zinc: Nutrients for vision health.
Quit smoking. The CNIB reports that “people who smoke are three to four times more likely to develop age-related macular degeneration (AMD)”.

Older adults experiencing vision loss may suffer from depression and social isolation. An older adult may not engage in social activities because they are embarrassed of their vision loss. They may no longer be able to enjoy hobbies such as sewing and reading. A study at the University of Alabama found that many long term care home residents did not have glasses, had lost their glasses or had the wrong prescription. Two months after their vision was corrected they were found to be more socially engaged and have less depressive symptoms.

Join us in recognizing Vision Health Month and book an annual eye check-up for you or a loved one.

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