As we celebrate Healthy Aging Month this September, we’re emphasizing how to preserve eyesight and prevent blindness after 60. Brad E. Oren, M.D., a board-certified ophthalmologist and cataract specialist, shares his expertise and insights on the topic, as well as tangible recommendations that can be implemented today.
As our bodies continue to change as we age, our eyes are no exception. My patients often ask me, “What can I do to preserve my vision as I get older?” Depending on their unique eye health, I provide personalized recommendations. But generally, the answer can be as simple as this: keep actively caring for your eyes and your entire, whole-body health.
Diagnosis & Slowing Progression of Eye Diseases
There are several serious eye diseases that can become more prevalent and concerning with age. The first, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye disease defined as the deterioration of the central part of the retina, that can result in the loss of central vision. Early diagnosis and effective treatment can help slow or stop further loss of sight, but there are also several steps that can be taken today to lower the risk of vision loss and blindness from AMD. These include:
- Attending regular, annual eye exams
- Quitting smoking
- Maintaining healthy weight and blood pressure levels
- Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables
- Regulating sun exposure
- Knowing your family history
Another eye disease, cataracts, is a clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye. This makes vision seem distorted, as though looking through a frosty or fogged-up window. While cataracts typically develop slowly and may not even disturb eyesight early on, they can interfere with vision and cause blindness. Ways to slow or even prevent cataracts include:
- Wearing sunglasses
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Never missing an eye exam
A final age-related eye disease to feature is glaucoma. A group of progressive diseases, glaucoma occurs when cells and fibers of the optic nerve are damaged, affecting the transmission of signals from the eye to the brain. Individuals with a family history of glaucoma, or over the age of 60, are at a heightened risk for developing it. Specific actions to help slow the progression of glaucoma include:
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Avoiding smoking
- Practicing good dental hygiene
- Getting regular screenings for glaucoma, especially if there’s a history of the condition in your family
Focusing on Prevention
As you can see above, there are common themes we recommend to prevent or slow the progression of eye diseases and blindness. These include maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, and prioritizing annual eye exams. We cannot stress enough how critical eye exams are, especially in advanced age.
Routine comprehensive eye exams give your eye doctor the opportunity to monitor your eye health over time. Exams at regular intervals begin to show patterns or progression of potential vision problem risk factors. Even if you are not yet exhibiting symptoms, your eye doctor may be able to detect vision problems or disorders early in their development during a dilated eye exam. Early diagnosis can support faster, more effective treatment, ultimately helping to preserve vision and prevent blindness.