THE BENEFITS OF ANNUAL EYE EXAMINATIONS OVER THE AGE OF 55
Your annual eye examination is crucial for monitoring your eye health as well as overall health. For those with diabetes and other chronic health conditions, early detection of eye disorders such as glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration is of great importance. Additionally, non-eye health conditions may also be discovered during your routine eye exam, even before your primary care provider discovers the same conditions. Such conditions include carotid artery blockages, hypertension, elevated cholesterol, and diabetes. These conditions often become apparent during an eye examination because they affect the blood vessels and other structures that supply the eye with crucial oxygen and nutrients for proper functioning. Left untreated, these conditions may eventually threaten eye health and vision.
THE MOST COMMON AGE-RELATED EYE DISEASES
Although there are a number of eye diseases and injuries that may affect patients at any age, there are four eye diseases that become more common with age. Regular eye examinations are required to monitor for symptoms of these conditions or worsening of the diseases after onset. These conditions are:
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD): AMD is the leading cause of age-related blindness in the United States. Early detection and treatment is absolutely necessary to slow the disease’s progression. Treatment may slow AMD, preserving sight for some time. Such treatment may include laser surgery, medications, or dietary supplements.
- Glaucoma: Unfortunately, the signs of glaucoma are often not noticeable until the disease is fairly advanced. Glaucoma is a condition that results from excessive intraocular pressure. If for no other reason, keep your annual eye appointments so your eye doctor can monitor your eye pressure and your risk for glaucoma. When caught early enough, glaucoma may be managed and the progression slowed.
- Cataracts: Cataracts are an extremely common part of aging and involve clouding and yellowing of the lens. Cataracts may be treated surgically with lens replacement, but keeping your prescription for eyeglasses or contacts up to date may also help.
- Diabetic retinopathy: Without treatment, diabetic retinopathy may lead to blindness, as the tiny blood vessels feeding the retina with a supply of oxygen and nutrients become damaged and allow fluid to leak into the eye. In most patients, diabetic retinopathy is easily treated with diet and exercise, but for some patients, surgery may also be necessary.
BETWEEN EYE EXAMS
Although annual eye examinations are important to your eye health and maintaining your vision as you get older, it is also important to pay attention to other changes in behavior or ability that can signal vision problems — even if you don’t have any obvious visual complaints. If you or someone you know begins to have unexplained difficulty with mobility or taking part in daily activities, these may signal developing vision problems.
Difficulty moving about: Patients who seem to be constantly bumping into things or tripping over obvious objects or tripping over seemingly nothing may be having difficulty with their vision. Additional examples of mobility issues related to vision include walking with hesitant steps or shuffling, excess caution going up or down stairs, or a need to hold onto or brush against the walls when walking, or missing objects when reaching for them.
Difficulty with doing everyday activities: Patients who suddenly stop or limit activities such as reading, watching television, driving, or participating in hobbies may be experiencing vision troubles. They may squint, tilt their head, or move closer than usual in an effort to focus, or they may seem to have difficulty recognizing faces or objects or identifying colors or patterns. Some of these difficulties may be explained by other conditions, but visual disturbances should be ruled out when undergoing any type of examination related to such problems.
Some degree of visual changes are normal as we age, but that does not mean you have to simply accept such changes and give up living a normal life or enjoying your favorite activities. The older you become, the more important it is to have your annual eye examinations. Please call Silverstein Eye Centers today to at (816) 358-3600 to schedule your next eye exam. We look forward to working with you to preserve your vision and eye health for as long as possible.