Certain eye diseases and problems are more common as we age. Blind spots, dry eyes, and presbyopia are some of the conditions that are brought on by aging. More serious eye conditions include diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, and glaucoma. Please listen to part 2 of this 3 part series to learn more about how vision changes and disease processes affects visual perception and fall risk in older adults.
[00:00:00] Janet: Hello everyone and thank you for being with me today. Today's episode is part two of a three part series on common eye problems in older adults, and I was inspired to write an article and then record a podcast series on how our vision changes as we age, because. This also affects our design choices in our home, and our design choices can literally affect our risk for falls, how we function in our environment, and more importantly, how we can create an environment that is not only pleasing.
but we'll also enhance our mood and our emotional wellbeing. And I think this is especially important as we get older, [00:01:00] because let's face it, as we get older, we have friends that are dying, we have friends that become sick. We may have lost our spouses. And we're probably no longer living with other family members because now we have adult children and they have their own lives.
So being alone and loneliness can be a real problem for older adults. So we really have to create an environment that helps us function as best as we can, and also creates a mood of happiness. And enjoyment. And let's be realistic. We spend most our, of our waking hours in our home. So it is important that we make our home as livable and as enjoyable, and a reflection of who we are and the things that [00:02:00] we enjoy and what we like, and we make it about that.
So let's go into the meat of the episode, which is Common Diseases of the Eye. So I am going to discuss briefly a myriad of diseases that are common as we get older. So number one, blind spots. . One of the things that can happen as we age is that our blind spots can start to enlarge. Our blind spot is the area on the retina without receptors that send visual information to the brain.
We usually don't notice our blind spot because our rise will automatically move to fill in the missing inform. However, as we age, the cells in the retina can start to break down, and this can [00:03:00] cause our blind spots to get bigger. If you have ever noticed a shadow in your vision, it is likely due to an enlarged blind spot.
Laser treatment can help to shrink in large blind spots. And while an enlarged blind spot itself is not dangerous, it can be a sign of other age related eye conditions such as macular degeneration or glaucoma. If you notice any of these vision changes, you should see a doctor and have a comprehensive eye exam next refractive errors.
Refractive errors are the most common type of eye problem and can occur when the eye is unable to focus light correctly. This can be due to the shape of the eye aging or other factors. Common symptoms of [00:04:00] refractive errors include blurry vision, difficulty reading, and. And as we know, blurry vision can lead to falls.
So again, if you think that you have any of these symptoms, you should see an eye doctor and have a comprehensive eye exam. Now, cataracts, we all know about cataracts, so this is one of the most I, one of the most common eye problems in older adults. It's a clouding of the eyes. Which also leads to blurred vision.
The formation of cataracts is usually gradual and actually starts happening in your early forties. Even though we don't see cataracts, if you have a comprehensive eye exam, by and up, thumb up them ophthalmologists, you will most likely already have the onset of cataracts. As I learned when I had.
comprehensive eye exam over a [00:05:00] year ago when I was only 43 . So cataract surgery is a common and very effective treatment. Next is macular degeneration. So age related macular degeneration, also known as AMD, is another common eye problem in older adults. AMD is a deterioration of the central part of the retina, which leads to loss of central vision.
AMD is a leading cause of blindness in older adults. Early stages of macular degeneration may not cause any symptoms, but the condition can progress and lead to vision loss. So I also wanna mention that with macular degeneration. Peripheral vision is preserved, but there is a loss of central vision. Next is [00:06:00] glaucoma.
Glaucoma is another common eye problem in older adults. It leads to a loss of peripheral vision. So this is the opposite of macular degeneration. So in glaucoma, central vision is preserved. Open angle. Glaucoma is the most common type. It occurs when the drainage system of the eye becomes clogged. This leads to a buildup of pressure in the eye, which can damage the optic nerve and lead to vision loss.
Glaucoma can be treated with medication or surgery. Some risk factors for glaucoma include age, family. Diabetes and high blood pressure.
Dry eyes is a common problem in older adults. Dry eyes occurs when the eyes do not produce [00:07:00] enough tears. This can lead to irritation, redness, and blurred vision. One chronic condition that can lead to dry eyes. Sjögren’s syndrome. Next is Press by opia. Presbyopia is a common eye problem in older adults.
Press by opia is the loss of ability to focus on closed objects. This can make it difficult to read small print or do other close. , presbyopia can be treated with eyeglasses, contact lenses, or surgery. So personally, presbyopia is a condition that I am currently suffering from. I have a very difficult time reading small print from a close proximity, even though I continue to have 2020 vision.
So, yes, it is getting [00:08:00] more and more difficult for me to read the print on my computer and on medication bottles or on cans. So I'm constantly having to ask my son or my husband to read the small print, which is really annoying. All right, I'm gonna move on to flashers and float. Flashers and floaters are common in older adults.
Flashers are brief flashes of light that appear in the field of vision. Floaters are small spots that float in the field of vision. Both flashers and floaters are usually harmless. Treatment usually is not necessary. However, if you experie. A set of onset of flashers and floaters, you should see an eye doctor right away because it could be a more serious sign of a, it could be a sign of a more [00:09:00] serious problem, tearing or watery eyes.
So this is another common problem that can be caused by dry eyes, by wind or dust or other irritants treatment for tearing typically involves using artificial tears or eye drops to lubricate the eyes. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to correct a problem with the tear ducts. Now we're gonna move on to diabetic retinopathy, which is a much more serious condition.
It is related to diabetes as the name describe. It is also common in older adults that have diabetes retinopathy can be caused by high blood sugar levels, which damage the blood vessels in the retina. So treatment for retinopathy typically involves regular monitoring of blood sugar [00:10:00] levels and treatment with laser surgery or injections of Anti-VEGF agent.
In some cases, a vitrectomy may be necessary to remove damaged blood vessels from the retina. African Americans and Hispanics are at a higher risk for diabetes, so if you have a diagnosis of diabetes, it is important to be seen by an ophthalmologist at least every six months to a year. Retinal detachment. So now retinal detachment is a serious condition that can lead to blindness.
The retina is the layer of the tissue at the back of the eye that allows us to see when the retina detaches, it is no longer able to function properly. A comprehensive eye exam by an ophthalmologist is needed to make this [00:11:00] diagnosis if treated with surgery in an acute. Complete vision may be restored if left untreated for more than a few days.
It may result in permanent vision loss. And unfortunately, this happened to my mother several years ago. She suddenly lost vision in her left eye, and she went to an optometrist, and the optometrist said that she had a retinal detachment. Sent her to an ophthalmologist and the ophthalmologist misdiagnosed her with cataracts and she did not have the proper treatment to reattach the retina.
So by the time that she had the cataract surgery, which was scheduled for two months after her initial appointment, it was too late and she is [00:12:00] blind in her left eye.. So it's very unfortunate. So it really is a matter of just dire it is an emergency. If you suddenly have vision loss in one eye, you need to see a specialist and possibly have a second diagnosis to make sure that it is not a retinal detachment
because if you go more than a few days with a retinal detachment, it will very likely result in permanent vision loss. All right, so now we're gonna move on to yellowing of the lens. As part of the normal process of aging, the human lens becomes progressively more yellow and flues. Leading to a concomitant increase in light absorption in the 300 to 500 nm range, and thus diminishes our perception of [00:13:00] violet and blue light.
So if you heard my podcast, on the first part of common eye problems in older adults. I talked about visual perception and how visual perception changes as we age, and how this is going to also affect how we see colors. So the yellowing of the lens is directly related to aging of the eye and how we're seeing color, and so that is why.
We cannot see blues and greens as easily, and it's because the lens becomes more yellow as we age and more fluorescent. And so this is going to affect how we see the world. World. So also because there is little or no protein turnover in the [00:14:00] lens nucleus, the protein. are literally as old as the individual.
So can you imagine when you're 80 years old, the proteins in your lens are literally also 80 years old, which I thought was just incredible. . So nuclear cataract is characterized by a browning of the lens nucleus and significant oxidation. This is why. A silver car may appear brown to an older person.
It's because they literally see the world through a yellow to Brown's lens. All right, so we're gonna move on to stiffening of the lens. So we all know that as we age, our bodies change drastically Over time, our skin loses its elasticity, unfortunately, and that's why we look older. [00:15:00] Hearing begins to decline.
Hair grays and thins and organ function also declines. Bones and joints become brittle and stiff, and many other physical elements change both externally and internally. It's easy to see when a person is aging from the outside, but what about the changes we can't necessarily see or. Like those that take place in the eyes.
So unbeknownst to most people, our eyes actually begin a process of change fairly early in adulthood. And I, as I said in episode one, these changes can happen as early as the age of 35. So similarly to other organs, the eyes tend to peak and function around the age of 30. Before beginning, a [00:16:00] slow and gradual decline into old age, physically, the lenses of the eyes tend to stiffen and become denser, making it more difficult to see in low light situations or focus like they used to.
And that's the condition that I just talked about, presbyopia. The condition that I am currently suffering from the muscles of the pupil react more slowly to changes in exposure and the nerve cells of the eye deteriorate and decrease in number.
The eye also tends to produce less fluid as a person ages sometimes leading to irritation and. So this goes back to the dry eyes. Generally, most people begin to notice [00:17:00] these changes to their eyes as their vision becomes slightly less clear over time. Often people find themselves requiring more light than usual, having more difficulty distinguishing colors, or struggling to read text up.
Often leading them to reach for re readers. These changes become more apparent to the individual as they age, but can become a problem as early as the age of 35.
So this concludes our episode today on Common Diseases of the Eye as we age. Please listen to our next episode, which is going to discuss color, vision problems as we age. Again, thank you for being with me today, and I hope you have a wonderful day.