Vision over 60
Normal changes in vision occur with age and are accompanied by a high prevalence of age-related eye disorders. Although medical and surgical interventions can eliminate or reduce some vision loss, vision rehabilitation is key to maintaining independence for many older people. This article addresses normal age-related changes in vision, age-related eye disorders, and the risk factors and interventions associated with eye disorders. A crucial aspect of this discussion is the role of the vision rehabilitation service network.
Vision loss among the elderly is a major health care problem. Approximately one person in three has some form of vision-reducing eye disease by the age of 65. The most common causes of vision loss among the elderly are age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataract and diabetic retinopathy. Age-related macular degeneration is characterized by the loss of central vision. Primary open-angle glaucoma results in optic nerve damage and visual field loss. Because this condition may initially be asymptomatic, regular screening examinations are recommended for elderly patients. Cataract is a common cause of vision impairment among the elderly, but surgery is often effective in restoring vision. Diabetic retinopathy may be observed in the elderly at the time of diagnosis or during the first few years of diabetes. Patients should undergo eye examinations with dilation when diabetes is diagnosed and annually thereafter.
The elderly population in the United States is increasing rapidly. By the year 2030, approximately 70 million Americans will be over 65 years of age. Loss of vision among the elderly is a major health care problem: approximately one in three elderly persons has some form of vision-reducing eye disease by the age of 65.1 Vision impairment is associated with a decreased ability to perform activities of daily living and an increased risk for depression.2 This article reviews the four most common causes of vision impairment in the elderly: age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataract and diabetic retinopathy.
As you age, so do your eyes. You might find that you have difficulty reading small print or that you need brighter lighting at your desk. In addition, eye diseases that could lead to more-serious vision problems become more common with age.
Consider cataracts. A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye. Most cataracts develop slowly and don’t disturb eyesight early on. At first, stronger lighting and eyeglasses can help you deal with cataracts. Eventually cataracts can interfere with your vision. Left untreated, cataracts can lead to blindness. However, even with advanced cataracts, vision can usually be restored with surgery.
Just as the body changes with age, our eyes undergo changes, too. Our eyes function differently in our 60s than they did in our 30s. Such changes in vision are normal, offer few serious risks, are not caused by disease or illness, and, in general, can be corrected with eyeglasses, contact lenses, or surgery. Other changes in vision, however, can be a sign of eye disease. How do you know the difference between a “normal” change in vision and a change that is more serious? To determine the answer, your doctor will want to know your specific symptoms. The best way to answer this question is to visit your eye care professional.
A rapidly increasing proportion of the aging population experiences eye problems that make simple daily tasks difficult or impossible, even when wearing glasses or contact lenses. Severe eye problems are not just a matter of “getting older.” The risk of severe eye problems has been found to increase significantly with age, particularly in those over age 65. The Special Report on Aging is intended to draw attention to the disproportionate number of elderly individuals who have vision loss. Perhaps even more alarmingly, the trend is expected to continue to grow significantly as the baby boom generation continues to age. Experts predict that by 2030, rates of vision loss will double along with the country’s aging population. According to Prevent Blindness America (2008)1, the four leading eye diseases affecting older Americans are age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma. As people age, they are far more likely to have serious age-related eye conditions. Younger people are less inclined to experience the full extent of the severity of age-related eye conditions until later in life. Thus, a well documented trend indicates that there is a continuously growing disproportionate number of seniors with severe age-related eye conditions.