Regular eye exams become increasingly more important as you approach your 60s and beyond. Many eye conditions that lead to vision loss have no noticeable symptoms to the bearer until it has progressed to an advanced stage. It is therefore vital to visit an eye care professional regularly, so that they can check for possible warning signs.
People aged 60 and over are eligible for a free eye test through the NHS every two years. If you’re over 70, diabetic, have glaucoma or a close family history of glaucoma, then you’re eligible for a free eye test every year.
Age-related eye conditions
There are certain conditions that become more common as the eyes age, which anyone over 60 should be aware of:
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye disease that affects the macula (centre of the retina). AMD causes damage to the layers of the retina within the macula. If this progresses, it can lead to bleeding and severe loss of central vision. Early diagnosis and treatment is vital, as AMD is a leading cause of blindness among the over 60s.
- Cataracts is a common condition among the over 60s that gradually causes the eye’s lens to cloud over. Cataracts can be treated with a simple operation.
- Glaucoma is a build-up of fluid within the eye, causing the eye’s internal pressure to increase and damage the optic nerve. The loss of vision caused by glaucoma is slow, meaning many sufferers don’t notice until it has reached an advanced stage. Peripheral vision is lost first, and the deterioration slowly works towards the centre. Glaucoma is usually treated with eye drops.
- Presbyopia is the inability to see close objects clearly. This occurs in almost everyone, and usually starts to become noticeable from the 40s onwards. Presbyopia is usually corrected with reading glasses.
- Floaters are specks, spots or narrow strands that appear to drift across your field of vision. They are usually most visible in bright environments or when looking at a light surface. Floaters are normal at all ages, but may occasionally be indicative of a serious eye condition. If you ever notice flashes of light or large amounts of floaters that obscure your vision, seek help from an eye care professional immediately.
TIPS FOR KEEPING OLDER EYES HEALTHY
For most people, deterioration of vision is inevitable. Despite this, there are a number of lifestyle choices and practices that help to maintain healthy vision for as long as possible:
- Diet – What you eat is incredibly important for your eye’s health. Eating a balanced, healthy diet is great for your overall health, and may help ward off serious eye conditions.
- Sunglasses – If you’re living in the UK, you might think the sun has little impact on the health of your eyes. Particularly during the summer months, strong sunlight can have negative effects on your eyes. Wearing sunglasses with UV filtering protects your vision against the sun’s harmful rays, which may otherwise increase the risk of cataracts or other conditions such as AMD.
- Sleep – Sleeping doesn’t just help clear your mind. Sleep is also great for the health of your eyes, as having them closed for a long period of time keeps them lubricated. This helps to clear irritants and debris that may have accumulated during waking hours.
- Exercise – Healthy eyesight is dependent on an adequate level of oxygen and blood supply. This is true for people of all ages, but even more important as you approach your 60s. Regular exercise can reduce the risk of developing conditions that in turn affect your eyes, such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
- Quit smoking – Smoking is bad for many parts of your body, and this includes your eyes. Smoking has been shown to increase the risk of developing serious conditions such as age-related macular degeneration.