It's Your Health
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As people get older, it is normal for their vision to change. However, there are steps you can take to preserve your eyesight and improve your vision - an important part of staying safe and independent.
The effects of aging on vision can range from mildly irritating changes to serious eye diseases. Changes may include:
Because vision is so vital to daily living, it is important to recognize the changes. Having your eyes examined regularly can help to detect problems early on and help maintain good vision.
For most seniors, normal age-related vision loss can be corrected with glasses, medication, or surgery. Even with more serious conditions, using vision aids and making changes to their homes and routines can help seniors stay safe and independent. There are also many services available to help seniors adjust to vision loss.
As you age, you or someone else may notice that you are experiencing symptoms of vision deterioration. Signs include:
In addition to the above changes and symptoms, there are several diseases and conditions that can affect vision.
Cataracts are a gradual clouding of the natural lens of the eye, preventing light from reaching the retina. The clouding may prevent you from being able to read or drive unless the cataract is removed. Fortunately, this is one of the most successful surgeries done in medicine today and is quite common.
Floaters are tiny spots or specks that float across your field of vision. They are often normal and sometimes moving the eye around will make the spots shift out of your central vision. However, if you notice a sudden change in the number or types of spots, or if they come with light flashes, you should see your eye doctor as soon as possible. They may be signs of a serious eye disease.
Glaucoma develops when the pressure within the eye starts to destroy the nerve fibres within the retina. If not treated early, glaucoma can cause vision loss and blindness. Because most people have no early symptoms, regular eye examinations are required to detect it. Treatment may include eye drops, medication, or surgery.
Macular degeneration occurs when the macula (the central part of the retina responsible for sharp focus) is damaged. This damage may be the result of many factors, including aging, and it causes permanent loss of central vision. Regular eye exams can detect the disease early on and laser treatments can slow down the central vision loss.
As the name suggests, this is an eye problem linked to diabetes. Changes to the blood vessels caused by diabetes can starve the retina of oxygen. This condition can go through many stages and can result in blindness. Symptoms include cloudy vision and seeing spots. If you have diabetes, be sure to have regular eye examinations and tell your eye specialist that you are diabetic. Treatment can slow down vision loss. Laser treatment in the early stages is often successful.
There are many steps you can take to protect your vision.
The Public Health Agency of Canada is committed to promoting and protecting the health and well-being of Canadians. Its Division of Aging and Seniors in particular, disseminates information on healthy aging and encourages seniors' health promotion.
For more information on eye care for seniors, contact the following:
For additional articles on health and safety issues go to the It's Your Health Web site.
You can also call toll free at 1-866-225-0709 or TTY at 1-800-465-7735*.
Original: October 2006
ę Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Health, 2006