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Seniors and Sight: Four Common Eye Diseases that Occur in the Elderly

Apr 08 2019

By Lizzie Weakley

Elderly citizens are generally more prone to eye conditions that can affect sight and cause greater difficulties managing everyday life. Fortunately, many of these conditions are curable and even preventable with the right treatment. These four eye diseases are among the most common to occur in the elderly.

Glaucoma

This condition causes damage to the optic nerve and may result in partial or total vision loss. According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, the most common types of glaucoma are open-angle and angle-closure. Both types can damage the optic nerve by increasing eye pressure too much because of blocked drainage canals. Symptoms, which may include patchy blind spots, tunnel vision and seeing halos around lights, can develop quickly or gradually without any major noticeable changes in the beginning stages. Even though it is still impossible to reverse damage caused by glaucoma, certain types of prescription eyedrops and other medications, as well as surgery can slow or stop disease progression.

Diabetic Eye Disease

Several diseases of the eye can be caused by diabetes. The National Eye Institute explains that diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease and can decrease sight by causing blood vessels in the eye to swell, leak fluid or grow in abnormally large numbers. Blurred vision is often a symptom, but major optical damage could still be done without experiencing symptoms. Getting diabetes under better control and undergoing laser eye surgery can be successful in treating diabetic eye disease.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration

As MedlinePlus states, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in Americans who are age 60 and over. Central vision is often lost when this condition progresses. In wet AMD, blood and other fluid may leak from abnormal blood vessels that grow under the macula part of the eye, and vision could become blurry when this happens. When dry AMD occurs, macular cells that are sensitive to light begin to diminish, which may cause straight lines to appear crooked when looking at them. Anti-angiogenic medications, retinal translocation and submacular surgery are just a few of the treatment options.

Cataracts

This buildup of protein on the eye lenses can make vision appear cloudy and interfere with night vision. Light sensitivity is another common symptom of cataracts. Some cataracts sufferers also report seeing halos around lights and differences in the way they view colors. Cataracts can develop slowly and cause no symptoms but will eventually interfere with vision if left untreated in most cases. Surgery to remove the cataracts is almost always the best treatment. Single dose cataracts surgery steroids have been developed to reduce any postoperative inflammation.

Even though these eye diseases are common among older adults, they aren’t inevitable for every aging person. Knowing the symptoms and treatment options can help older adults preserve their eyesight and prevent blindness.

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