Aging can bring about decreased visual acuity and other eye disorders or diseases. By knowing more about different eye problems and adopting proper eye care, we can help to keep our eyes healthy as we grow old.
Common Eye Problems :
- Drooping of Eyelids
Eyelids lose their elasticity and muscles that control them become flaccid causing the skin around the eyes to droop and sag. This is often seen in elders and usually does not cause any discomfort or impair vision.
- Dry Eyes
Main causes include:
degenerative change of the tear gland;
extremely dry or polluted environment;
side effects of some drugs such as cold tablets, antihistamines, diuretics or preservatives in eye-drops, etc. The eyes have stinging, burning sensation and become photophobic. The discomfort can be relieved by artificial teardrops or by humidifying the air. If dry eyes persist or symptoms of eye infection develop, consult your doctor immediately.
- Excessive tearing
Main causes include:
drooping of eyelids leading to poor contact between the openings of the tear ducts and the eyeballs. As a result, tears cannot be drained into the ducts but spills out of the eyes;
foreign bodies irritating the eyes;
- eye infection, etc.
Excessive tearing should be managed according to the cause. Elders having persistent tearing should consult doctors.
The lens of the eye loses elasticity with age resulting in inability to focus clearly on near objects. This happens around the age of 40 and progresses with age, becoming stable at around the age of 60. Corrective glasses can help to correct vision and the glasses should be prescribed by certified opticians or eye doctors. It is necessary to recheck every 2 to 3 years thereafter to ensure that the correct glasses are used.
Floaters are small mobile opaque particles in the jelly of the eyeball. They appear as dark spots in the visual field. Floaters are mostly transient phenomenon. The amount varies with time and they often disappear spontaneously.
- Blurred Vision
The following are the 3 most common eye diseases that can lead to blurred vision in elders. All require doctors' diagnoses and treatment as appropriate:
Cataract: The lens of the eye becomes progressively clouded, blocking light entry and resulting in blurred vision.
Glaucoma: This is caused by an abnormal rise in pressure in the eyes that damages the optic nerve and results in defective vision and narrowed visual field. Irreversible damage or even visual loss could occur if not treated promptly.
Age-related macular degeneration: The macula is the part of the retina which contains the most optic cells and nerve fibres. It is essential for fine differentiation between colors and sizes, and for central vision. The macula gradually degenerates with age. Some elders would experience distorted vision, e.g. straight lines become crooked or are seen to be magnified or diminished, or sometimes dim spots appear in the center of the visual field.
Important Symptoms to be Alert of :
Consult your doctor immediately if the following appear :
- Blurred vision not corrected by appropriate corrective glasses
- Persistent eye pain or acute sharp pain
- Over-sensitivity to light. Halo or rainbow is seen around lights
- Partial loss of visual field
- Red eyes or burning sensation experienced
- Sudden appearance of large amounts of floaters or black spots in the visual field
- Abnormal growth in the eye or on the eyelid
- The transparent part of the eye looks cloudy
- Eyes become watery, with persistent discharge or crust
Helpful Tips to Protect Your Eyes :
1.Personal Hygiene :
- When washing your face every morning, use a clean towel and water to wipe the lid margin well to prevent infection or styes.
- Do not use public towel or hands to rub the eyes.
- Do not use other people's eye medications or glasses.
2.Daily Activities :
- Take a well-balanced diet with adequate vitamin A and proteins.
- Stop smoking.
- Ensure adequate rest to relax the eyes.
- Be careful when using sprays. Do not spray near the eyes and close your eyes when using hair sprays.
- Watch TV under good lighting . The distance between the eyes and the TV screen should be at least 6 times the screen's diagonal length.
- Make sure lighting is sufficient when using computers. Try to take a short break every half an hour to relax your eyes by looking at some distant objects.
- Tips for reading :
- Have adequate, even, and soft lighting or read under natural light.
- Make sure that tables and chairs are of suitable height, so that the eyes can be kept at a distance of about 12 inches from the book
- Papers are better not of a shiny type.
- Prints are clear and large.
- When the eyes feel tired, try to have a break. You can look at some distant objects or close your eyes to take a rest.
- Do not read in the moving vehicle or in bed.