By Joe Schneiderhan, O.D., Optometrist
As your body ages, your eyes are aging along with it. Sometimes changes in vision happen slowly, sometimes more quickly. That is why preventive care with regular eye exams is so important.
The National Eye Institute recommends getting a dilated eye exam every one to two years for those over 60—more frequently if your eye doctor recommends it due to your eye health. At your annual eye exam, your eye doctor checks:
- How clearly you see
- Peripheral vision
- Eye muscle function
- Pupil response
- Eye pressure
The doctor dilates your eyes to examine the retina and look for eye problems, such as diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, glaucoma, or age-related macular degeneration.
Diabetes and Vision
By dilating your eyes, the doctor can see if the blood vessels at the back of the eye are healthy. Diabetic retinopathy affects those with diabetes and can lead to eye damage, vision loss, or even blindness. Symptoms include blurry vision, spots or floaters in the eye, or difficulties seeing well at night. Treatments depend on the severity of the condition but include medicine, laser treatment, or even surgery.
Cataracts are a cloudy area in the lens of your eye and are described as looking through a dirty windshield. You can’t see clearly or focus properly. Symptoms include blurriness, muted or fading colors, sensitivity to light, poor night vision, or double vision. Cataracts can form due to aging, but other causes include diabetes, medications, smoking or alcohol use, deficiencies in the diet, UV light, or eye trauma.
Dr. John Dvorak, ophthalmologist at Glenwood Family Eye Center, reports that cataract surgery is one of the most common surgeries in the United States: “Cataract surgery is safe and can correct vision issues due to cataracts.”
Glaucoma is caused by high pressure in the eye. With glaucoma, loss of vision occurs slowly, which makes it hard to pinpoint at first. Because eye pressure varies from person to person, a dilated eye exam reveals your own eye health. A prescription for eye drops is one common way to treat high eye pressure. If needed, laser treatment or surgery may also be recommended.
Age-related Macular Degeneration
Changes to a small part of the retina cause age-related macular degeneration (AMD)—the leading cause of severe vision loss in adults over 50. Those with this eye disease have a hard time seeing things that are straight ahead. It happens gradually, so watch for these symptoms:
- Loss of clear color vision
- Distorted objects
- Straight lines appear wavy
- Center of vision is dark or empty
There are two types of AMD—dry or wet. Dry AMD is more common and occurs when scar tissue forms on the center of the retina. It progresses slowly, so it’s important to have your eyes checked regularly. If it isn’t caught until the later stage, there is no treatment. If you have it in only one eye, there are ways to protect the other eye.
Wet AMD is less common but often causes faster vision loss. It occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow in the back of the eye, affecting the retina. However, wet AMD is treatable—treatment options include medicines or a combination of injections and laser treatment.
If you haven’t had a recent eye exam, contact Glacial Ridge’s Glenwood Family Eye Center and have your eyes checked with dilation. We can diagnose and treat cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and other aging eye conditions either medically or surgically. Learn more about the eye exam technology at Glenwood Family Eye Center.