As we get older, everything starts to fail a bit; and our eyes are no exception. We can work out to keep our bodies fit, but to keep our eyes in good shape is not as simple.
Good nutrition and regular check-ups will help stave off age-related vision problems, and early diagnosis is useful in the treatment of many eye conditions.
Being aware of certain warning signs, particularly those with a sudden onset will help you to take the appropriate steps to maintain your eyesight.
While many eye problems can occur at any age, they often are more common in older individuals. Unfortunately, aging also increases your risk for certain types of sight-threatening eye conditions that can lead to blindness.
1) Spots and ‘floaters’ in your field of vision
Often, spots and floaters are due to a relatively benign age-related condition called vitreous detachment. The eye's gel-like interior becomes more liquid, and separates from the retina, the area on the back wall of the eye where vision processing occurs.
However a sudden onset of spots and floaters also can be caused by a serious, sight-threatening tear or detachment of the retina. If you suddenly see a shower of spots and floaters, visit your optometrist or ophthalmologist immediately.
2) A ‘dark curtain’ across your field of view.
This is potentially a serious condition and may be caused by a retinal detachment, which occurs when the retina separates from the underlying layer of nourishing blood vessels (choroid).
Immediate attention is needed for a retinal detachment; if it’s not re-attached within hours the vision loss can be permanent.
3) Sudden eye pain, redness, nausea and vomiting.
These symptoms can signal a sudden (acute) attack of narrow-angle glaucoma, which can permanently damage the eye's optic nerve. Immediate treatment is required to prevent permanent vision loss.
4) Narrowing of the field of vision (either gradual or sudden)
This could mean you have developed glaucoma that damages your optic nerve, with accompanying vision loss at the "edges" of your field of view. Without intervention, vision loss will continue and permanent blindness may result.
5) A gradual loss of central vision, including distortions
These symptoms may be caused by macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness among older Irish people. Notoriously difficult to treat, ‘dry’ AMD is the most common form of the disease.
6) Blurry vision, ghost images, and night "halos"
Cloudy and blurred eyesight, "halos" around lights at night, loss of bright colour vision-all may indicate the development of cataracts. The lens of the eye begins to get cloudy over time, and eventually you will go blind unless you have eye surgery to replace that cloudy lens with a man-made intraocular lens (IOL).
If you wait too long for cataract surgery, you increase your chance of complications such as glaucoma. Also, if cataract surgery is postponed too long, the cloudy lens can harden and become more difficult to remove.
7) Diabetic Retinopathy
Blind spots in your field of view accompanied by eye floaters and unexplained blurred vision; diabetics must have regular eye exams, particularly those over 60 years of age.
By evaluating the condition of your retina, your eye doctor also can provide valuable information to your general physician about the control and severity of your diabetes.
8) Itchy, irritated eye surface pain
These signs and symptoms are most commonly due to dry eye syndrome. It’s more of a painful nuisance than a medical emergency, but is very uncomfortable, and can get worse as the chemistry of your tears that moisturise the eye changes. Over-the counter lubricating eye drops and attention to diet will help.
9) Double vision or "ghost" images.
Double vision can be caused by many eye conditions. Some may be very serious, such as a stroke or an attack of Multiple Sclerosis. Double vision after hitting your head can be an indication of a brain injury. If you experience sudden double vision, see a doctor immediately.
10) Sudden blurry vision in one eye.
Older people are at risk of developing a macular hole in the part of the retina where the fine focusing happens, increases. Because macular holes can worsen and cause permanent loss of vision, it's important to visit your eye care practitioner for a diagnosis and prompt treatment.
Not all vision problems are severe or urgent; but it’s better to be safe than sorry and sudden vision loss is often a sign that something has gone wrong all of a sudden. Always contact your doctor when you experience a sudden vision loss issue.
You also can reduce your chances of developing serious eye problems by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, along with undergoing regular eye exams. Eye vitamins and good nutrition also may reduce your risk of certain eye problems.
To book a free consultation with Optilase and see if laser eye surgery can help your eye condition, call +353 1 223 8821 or see www.optilase.com