Education is key to maintaining your health, vision and independence.
Here the symptoms, treatment and preventive measures for the three most common causes of vision loss in boomers.
“Glaucoma is a sight-robbing eye disease (often related to increased fluid pressure in the eye) that causes progressive damage to the optic nerve, which carries visual information from the retina to the brain. Left untreated, glaucoma can cause permanent loss of side vision and eventually all sight,” explains Mark Freedman, MD, who uses OCT laser scanning technology to detect and track glaucoma.
* Often, none. (That’s why eye exams are vital.)
* Loss of side vision
* Inability to adjust to darkened rooms
Most cases are treated by daily use of prescription eye drops to either reduce fluid production or increase fluid drainage within the eye. If drops are ineffective or intolerable, laser procedures (SLT or ECP) may be an option to control glaucoma and sometimes even reduce or eliminate the need for drops.
Brett Rhode, MD, Head of Ophthalmology at Aurora Sinai Medical Center reports, “Since glaucoma usually does not present symptoms until very late in its course, the earlier it is discovered, the greater the success in preventing loss of vision. Routine eye exams are important for anyone past age 35, especially if there is a family history of glaucoma.”
* Siblings/parents with glaucoma (means you have a 1 in 5 chance of developing it too)
* Previous eye injury or eye surgery
* Black heritage
* Cortisone/steroid medication use
“A cataract is NOT a film or growth on the eye. It is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens located behind the pupil. In addition to aging (six out of 10 people over age 60 have one), other causes include heredity, eye injuries, medications (steroids), and long-term, unprotected sunlight exposure” says Daniel Ferguson, MD, who, along with the rest of the team at Eye Care Specialists, uses advanced ultrasonic and laser-assisted removal procedures and new technology lens implants.
* Hazy, fuzzy and blurred vision
* Sensitivity to light/glare
* A “starburst” effect around lights
* Lens prescription changes don’t seem to help
“The right time to remove a cataract is dependent upon your own needs. When visual impairment interferes with your daily activities, it may be beneficial to have cataract surgery, which involves making a tiny opening in the eye, removing the cloudy lens (cataract), and replacing it with an intraocular lens implant (IOL) to once again focus light rays onto the retina. IOLs often restore vision to levels not seen in years,” reports Daniel Paskowitz, MD, PhD.
AGE-RELATED MACULAR DEGENERATION (AMD)
“With AMD, the macula (a highly sensitive area of the retina) becomes damaged causing loss of straight-ahead central vision (as needed for driving a car, reading fine print and recognizing faces),” explains Michael Raciti, MD. “Dry” AMD is more common (90% of cases), progresses slowly and is less severe. “Wet” AMD is less common, but can progress quickly and cause profound loss of central vision. Without treatment, about 70% of wet AMD patients become legally blind within two years.
* Straight lines appear wavy
* Type on a page appears blurry
* Dark or empty spaces appear in the center of the field of vision
“For dry AMD, we usually recommend vitamin supplements, sun protection, and not smoking to stop or slow progression. For wet AMD, we review candidacy for injections of medications that can inhibit the growth of abnormal blood vessels,” says David Scheidt, OD. “Although there are NO guarantees, we have seen remarkable results with regular treatments (about every 4-8 weeks), including stopping wet AMD progression in 90% of patients and having up to 30% gain improvement in vision.”
* Relatives with AMD
3 STEPS TO PROTECT AGAINST ALL 3 CONDITIONS
1. Regular eye exams (typically every two years after age 40)
2. Wearing sunglasses and hats with brims
3. Not smoking