Eye changes as you age and how to take care of them

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Aging is a natural part of life, but there are steps you can take to decrease your risk of certain age-related diseases. As we age, our eyes change and eyesight is often affected, so it is important to monitor the health of your eyes and know the signs of eye problems. Dr. Mark Hill, an ophthalmologist at Davis Hospital and Medical Center has seen various problems with vision and eyes.

Common eye problems in older adults
– Cataracts
The development of cataracts is very common in older adults. Proteins on the lens begin to cloud and often change from crystal clear to a brown-yellow color causing blurry vision, and glare from lights. Treatment involves surgery where the natural lens in the eye is replaced with an intraocular lens implant.

– Glaucoma 
Glaucoma can occur from a fluid buildup inside the eye. The pressure can damage the optic nerve, which transmits visual information to the brain. Unfortunately, many people don’t have symptoms in early stages; however, the first sign is often loss of peripheral vision like tunnel vision. Treatment can involve prescription eye drops, laser procedures, or microsurgery. 

– Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
AMD is caused by degeneration of the macula. The macula is the center portion of the retina that provides sharp, central vision. Left untreated, AMD can lead to blurry, distorted, or dark vision. If the disease progresses further, a person can lose their central vision, which can interfere with their ability to see faces, drive, read, write, etc. Unfortunately, there is no cure for AMD, but there are ways to slow the progression of the disease such as anti-angiogenic medications, nutritional supplements, and sometimes laser therapy. 

– Dry eye
Dry eye is a very common and often chronic problem, especially in older adults and in dry climates. Dry eye is the result of inadequate tear production or poor quality of tears. People with dry eye can experience a burning, gritty, or scratchy sensation in the eyes, blurred vision, and even excess eye watering. Treatment can involve over-the-counter artificial tear drops, blocking tear ducts to keep tears in the eye longer, and prescription eye drops. 

Tips to help keep your eyes healthy
– Schedule a comprehensive eye exam by age 40
– Eat a healthy diet
– Keep glasses or contact prescriptions up to date
– Quit smoking
– Wear proper eye protection

When it comes to eye health, it’s best to be proactive. Schedule a comprehensive eye exam with an ophthalmologist to get a baseline assessment. Don’t wait to develop symptoms before visiting your doctor.

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