At Dedham Ophthalmic Consultants and Surgeons, we came upon this very well written and informative article regarding common visual conditions that affect our aging population. We thought this a very worthwhile read for those of us taking care of a senior.
The article was written by By Phyllis L. Rakow, COMT, NCLM, FCLSA(H) and published in the August 2015 issue of Optometry Time.
Did you know that one-third of new cases of blindness could have been prevented by early intervention?
Advances in medicine have extended the average life span of American men to 76.4 years and American women to 82.1 years,1 but greater life spans have brought one or more chronic illnesses to 80 percent of those over the age of 60.2 Along with their general medical problems, older patients must deal with declining vision and its physiological and psychological effects. Loss of vision can restrict one’s ability to carry out daily activities and lead to depression, social isolation, falls, fractures, and the inability to live independently.
Let’s look at some of the common visual conditions that affect our senior population.
Cataracts represent another common cause of visual loss in the elderly. Although we all will develop cataracts if we live long enough, the decrease in vision from cataracts is gradual, and not everyone who lives a normal life span will require surgery (see Figure 2). In addition to age, causes of cataract include ultraviolet radiation from sunlight or other sources, corticosteroids, diabetes, family history, smoking, and previous eye injuries, inflammation, or surgery.6
Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) is a significant cause of vision loss in the elderly3 (see Figure 3). Risk factors include increasing age, family history, fair complexion and light irises, smoking, sleep apnea, metabolic syndrome (the most serious heart attack risk factors, including diabetes, prediabetes, abdominal obesity, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure), and high myopia.3
Diabetic retinopathy is the fourth most common cause of vision loss among the elderly in America.8 Over time, diabetes, especially poorly controlled diabetes, affects the circulatory system of the retina. Microaneurysms (tiny bulges that form and protrude from the walls of retinal blood vessels) can rupture and leak blood and fluids.