Losing Sight as We Age

EyesightHere is a typical story of a family managing a 90-year old woman who is losing sight in one eye. The woman, who had very good vision until recently, was a voracious reader and wonderful cook. Unfortunately, she was diagnosed with Age-related Macular Degeneration, or AMD. This disease requires her to go to an optometrist every few months for a therapeutic shot to the eye to minimize further vision loss.

To complicate matters, the woman’s eye developed a terrible infection after one of the shots. Because she was not able to administer medication herself, the woman’s daughter put 4 different eye drops in every 2 hours for five days and three eye drops every four hours. These activities required the daughter to take temporary leave from her job to care for her mother in her home until the family was able to find an agency with caregivers qualified to administer the medication.

Here is a list of the most common eye diseases and problems as we age as identified by the National Institutes of Health.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
AMD is a disease associated with aging that gradually destroys sharp, central vision. Central vision is needed for seeing objects clearly and for common daily tasks such as reading and driving.  AMD is the most common cause of vision loss in people over 50, and causes loss of much of their central vision, even if they do not experience total blindness. Approximately 11 million people in the United States have some form of AMD, and this number is expected to double by 2050 (Statistic on those affected). Learn more about AMD.

Cataracts 
A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye. Vision with cataract can appear cloudy or blurry, colors may seem faded and you may notice a lot of glare. Learn more about Cataracts.

Diabetic Eye Disease 
Diabetic eye disease is a complication of diabetes and a leading cause of blindness. The most common form is diabetic retinopathy, which occurs when diabetes damages the tiny blood vessels inside the retina. Learn more about Diabetic Eye Disease.

Glaucoma 
Glaucoma is a group of diseases that can damage the eye’s optic nerve and result in vision loss and blindness. It is usually associated with high pressure in the eye and affects side or peripheral vision. Learn more about Glaucoma.

Dry Eye 
Dry eye occurs when the eye does not produce tears properly, or when the tears are not of the correct consistency and evaporate too quickly. Dry eye can make it more difficult to perform some activities, such as using a computer or reading for an extended period of time. Learn more about Dry Eye.

Low Vision 
Low vision means that even with regular glasses, contact lenses, medicine, or surgery, people find everyday tasks difficult to do. Reading the mail, shopping, cooking, seeing the TV, and writing can seem challenging. But, many people with low vision are taking charge. Learn more about Low Vision.

Here are some simple changes that you can take to make an aging loved one feel safer and more comfortable at home (From Cornell University).

Lighting and Color:

  • Keep a lamp in a bedroom that can easily be switched on or off.
  • Use multiple lights in each room to ensure that all parts of the room are visible and evenly lit. This is especially important on stairs.
  • Use color to highlight important objects and areas, such as a doorsill, switch plate on a wall, and dinner plates (to contrast with the table).

 

Furniture and Flooring:

    • Remove low furniture that is easy trip over, such as coffee tables and footrests.
    • Eliminate glass furniture or other furniture that may blend into the floor or walls. Cover any shiny spots with fabric or a doily to reduce glare.
    • Choose furniture with fabrics that contrast the floor and wall.
    • Move furniture to the walls to create more open space to walk through.
    • Remove carpets and throw rugs whenever possible. If this is not possible, place non-skid padding under rugs or secure them to the floor with double sided tape.

 

Other Home Safety Tips:

  • Have a magnifying glass on hand to help read labels and anything else around the home.
  • Roll up you sleeves or wear short sleeves when cooking at the stove, and use pots and pans with heat-resistant handles.
  • Turn handles inwards when cooking.
  • Use a bath mat with a different texture than the bathtub and floor to help enter and exit the tub safely.

 

While there is no cure for aging eye diseases, there are many ways to help prevent and safely live with the disease. Understanding risk factors and being proactive about them are two crucial steps. Risk factors include smoking, heredity, low physical fitness, race (Caucasians are more likely to have AD), and a poor diet. Since AMD starts out without symptoms, it is important to have regular eye exams to catch at early signs. Eating a healthier diet that includes leafy greens and consuming adequate amounts of zinc and vitamins A, C, and E is another helpful protector against disease.

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