Senior Eye HealthLast Updated: September 23, 2018
Vision does tend to get worse with age. but that doesn't mean you shouldn't worry about protecting your eye health well into your golden years. There are easy steps you can take to make sure that your vision stays eagle-eye sharp for the majority of your life span. Below, we'll get into the nitty-gritty details about preventative care, healthy eating for your eyes, and other healthy habits that will help you enjoy crisp, clear vision for many years to come.
Protecting Your Eye Health As You Age
Protecting your eye health as you age is not as difficult as most senior stink. Too many senior citizens neglect their health and end up losing part or all of their vision long before the rest of their body catches up. But if you take little steps now to protect your eye health, it can help you avoid dealing with big eye problems later on in your lifetime. For starters:
Follow an Eye-healthy Diet
If you want to keep your eyes healthy as you age, you're going to have to learn how to eat right. Luckily, many of the foods that are good for your health (and weight loss) are also great for your eyes. Any whole food that contains high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, lutein, vitamin E, and vitamin C are great for extending the health and lifespan of your vision. One easy way to help you get more eye-healthy nutrients into your diet is through juicing - and we can even suggest some exciting juice recipes for you to try.
Get Regular Checkups With Your Eye Doctor
Regular exams are essential for optimal eye health and disease prevention. In fact, some degenerative eye diseases can be treated and possibly avoided if they are detected early on. Unfortunately, many of these diseases either have no symptoms or minimal symptoms that often get overlooked. However, your doctor may be able to detect them in their early stages during a regular eye exam and you can begin the treatment process sooner rather than later.
Whether you need an ophthalmologist or an optometrist will depend on your age, overall eye health, and any diseases that you need treatment for. An optometrist is a general eye doctor that you will go to for a regular exam, corrective lenses, and the more common eye diseases. An ophthalmologist is a much more specialized type of eye doctor. They tend to focus on more advanced eye diseases, and are also capable of performing eye surgery.
Protect Your Eyes from Harsh Sources of Light
First and foremost, the biggest light source that threatens your eye health is the sun. Radiation from UVA and UVB rays can lead to macular degeneration, cataracts, and other degenerative eye diseases. If you're going to be out in the sun, even if you wear corrective lenses (such as contacts that offer UV defense), you should still wear an extra pair of sunglasses for an added layer protection.
Even when you're inside, there are harsh light sources that threaten your eye health. Probably the biggest would be your computer screen; however, any source of harsh electronic light, such as an HD television or even your cell phone can hurt your eyes. This can lead to eyestrain, blurry vision, headaches, dry eyes, and even neck, back, and/or shoulder pain. To avoid computer-induced eye strain, make sure you take rest breaks throughout the day. This is especially important for people who spend several hours staring at a computer screen on a regular basis. You will also want to make sure that your corrective lens prescription is accurate and that your monitor is positioned ergonomically. if you believe you're suffering from eyestrain, and your symptoms don't go away even with healthy habit changes, talk to your eye doctor about specially-designed glasses for eye strain prevention.
Quit Your Bad Habits
Anything that can damage the brain can also damage your eyes and harm your eye health. If you're a senior who's worried about your vision, then pay close attention to the next section. Odds are that at least one of these bad habits applies to you. Also, keep in mind that working on the following habits won't just improve your sight; it can dramatically boost your overall health as well.
- Smoking. Pretty much everybody knows by now that smoking is extremely bad for your health. What most people don't know, however, are the ways in which smoking is specifically bad for the health of your eyes. For starters, your risk of glaucoma. Glaucoma is the result of optic nerve damage which leads to progressive, irreversible loss of vision. Smoking can also damage the lens of your eyeball, leading to cloudiness, rigidness, and thickening. All of these symptoms can eventually develop into a cataract formation. This can happen in one eye at a time, or both eyes at the same time. In its early stages, cataract-related vision problems can be treated with prescription lenses. Eventually, however, you will likely need surgery in order to see clearly again. Lastly, smoking doubles your risk for the most common type of eye disease: macular degeneration. Macular degeneration has robbed over 10 million people, most of them senior citizens, of their vision. Macular degeneration happens to everyone eventually; but smoking can make it come sooner than it has to.
- Drinking Alcohol to Excess. Excessive alcohol intake is also bad for your vision, albeit in subtler ways. Drinking excessively dehydrates the body, which leads to problems with dry eye and blurry vision over time. Drinking alcohol in excess damages every single tissue in your brain - including your optic nerve. This problem is compounded if you are a smoker. Lastly, don't forget that alcohol, especially when drinking excess, significantly inhibits your motor skills and physical coordination. In rare circumstances, this can lead to accidents like falling which may result in physical trauma to the eye.
- Poor sleep habits. Your eyes, just like the rest of your body, need time to rest at the end of each day. Doctors say that the average adult should get between 7-8 hours of sleep every night, but that number is much higher for children and seniors. Symptoms of sleep deprivation with regard to eye health include eye strain, irritation, dryness, or spasms. Any elderly adult who is experiencing these symptoms, and is also having trouble sleeping at night, should go see a doctor right away.
Can Seniors Get Laser Eye Surgery?
For some seniors, this may be an option. There are constant technological innovations happening in the realm of eye surgery. For some conditions, such as cataracts, surgery may be the only solution. However, seniors should not neglect their eye health and expect that surgery will be a fallback option for them later in life. The longer you wait, and the worse your vision gets, the riskier and more expensive your surgery will be. Many doctors refuse to perform eye surgery on people past a certain age because the risks greatly outweigh any potential benefits.
Eye health isn't the only thing seniors have to worry about. For more advice on getting the best out of your golden years, keep checking back for updates in the Seniors section of our blog.