Why Seniors Should Keep Up with Eye Exams

August is National Eye Exam Month! While most people are on top of their doctor’s or dentist appointments, eye doctor appointments often fall to the wayside. Why visit the optometrist when it doesn’t seem like your prescription has changed?

Why seniors should keep up with eye exams is about more than changing the lens of your glasses or offering you contacts. Regular screenings are crucial to detecting potential health problems before they become too serious. Some conditions are easily curable, while others are only treatable. Catching symptoms early is the best way to ensure health.

What do eye exams include?

During an eye exam, your optometrist will run a series of tests designed to gauge your eye health. They examine your visual acuity (sharpness), depth perception, eye alignment, and eye movement.

  • Visual field test: one eye is covered while you look into a perimeter tool. You press a button whenever you see a light blink.
  • Dilated retinal examination: allows your doctor to see into the back of the eye to examine the health of the optic nerve and retina.
  • Slit lamp test: your eye doctor looks at your dilated eyes through a microscope.
  • Eye pressures test: measures how firm your eyeball is. A high number (over 28-30 mm Hg) should be treated due to a risk of optic nerve damage.
  • Refraction test: measures where light focuses on the retina. This determines your prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses.

Your eye doctor can spot certain conditions, like high blood pressure or diabetes, during these exams. Adults over the age of 65 should visit every one to two years. If you experience decreased vision, eye pain, double vision, floaters (specks that appear to “float” before your eyes), or circles around lights, visit your eye doctor as soon as possible.

What can eye exams detect?

In seniors in particular, there are a few conditions and eye diseases your eye doctor will look for.

  • Cataracts: Did you know that one in five adults over the age of 65 develops cataracts, or the clouding of the lens of the eye? This condition can cause blurry vision, decreased contrast sensitivity, decreased ability to see under low light conditions, dulling of colors, and increased sensitivity to glare. Thankfully, cataract surgery is fast and outpatient.
  • Macular degeneration: This condition is the thinning of the “macula,” which is the portion of the retina that makes vision clear and detailed. When caught early, it is treatable. However, when vision loss occurs it cannot be recovered.
  • Glaucoma: In glaucoma, the damaged optic nerve (main nerve of the eye) causes patchy vision. It is initially noticed in loss of peripheral vision. Depending on the stage of glaucoma, your doctor may suggest three different types of treatment.
  • Dry eye: Tears maintain the health of the front of our eye, which helps provide clear vision. Too few, or poor quality, tears result in discomfort. Eye drops easily treat it.
  • Retinal detachment or tearing: As the name implies, this condition is the tearing or separating of the retina from underlying tissues. This can result in black spots in the vision. Treat as soon as possible to avoid permanent vision loss.

These conditions may indicate other health problems:

  • Diabetic retinopathy: This is a symptom of diabetes. Poor regulation of blood sugar damages the vessels of the retina. Milder cases are treated with normal diabetes monitoring. More serious cases must be treated through surgery.
  • Hypertensive retinopathy: Hypertension causes more than heart or kidney problems; it also impacts your eyes. Untreated hypertension may damage blood vessels in the back of the eye, which can cause bleeding in the back of the eye and swelling of the optic nerve.

How can I protect my eye health?

Maintaining your eye health begins with all the things you should be doing to protect your physical health in the first place. Exercise regularly and eat a quality diet, especially with foods that promote eye health (such as carrots, leafy greens, and foods high in omega-3 fatty acids). If you smoke, limit or quit the habit altogether.

Take additional measures to protect your eyes. Sunglasses protect the eyes from UV light while outside. Wear protective eye gear during any potentially damaging activities. This not only includes wearing goggles when cutting wood, for example, and wearing blue-blocking glasses when using electronics for extended periods of time. If you wear contacts, follow proper cleanliness guidelines to protect your eyes.

If you have a family history of eye disease, you may have to visit the eye doctor more regularly than others. These visits will help ensure you stay healthy. If you are curious about supplements that promote eye health, talk with your primary care physician before taking any.

Spend National Eye Exam Month the Right Way

If you have yet to visit the eye doctor this year, let this serve as your reminder to make an appointment. An in-home caregiver can help you maintain your eye health—whether that means ensuring you get to your appointment on time or picking up a new pair of glasses.

Home Care Powered by AUAF can help you live independently at home for longer. Whether you need assistance with running errands, staying organized, or medication reminders, our compassionate staff will provide you the best service. Learn more about how we can improve your quality of life by calling 773-274-9262.

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