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By J. Manuel Cordova, M. D.
Internal Medicine & Geriatric Specialist
Physical Changes In Aging
CHANGES IN EYESIGHT:
Like the rest of your body, your eyes age. As a result, they become less “elastic.” This kind of change most often affects the lens, resulting in difficulty in focusing on nearby objects (presbyopia). If you don`t need glasses at least some of the time after age around 65, you are just the exception. When changes in vision capacity become more pronounced, something other than normal aging is frequently at work.
GLAUCOMA, the buildup of fluid within the eyeball to an abnormally high pressure, narrows the field of vision and can lead to blindness if not diagnosed and treated appropriately. Most people do not have symptoms, though occasionally patients with glaucoma have pain or redness of the eyes and see colorful halos around lights. About 3-5 % of people older than 65 have glaucoma, and it is a real health public problem because after diabetes it is the second cause of preventive blindness in the world, but the diagnosis need to be on time.
CATARACTS: (Clouding of the lens) blur the field of vision, may cause double vision, and typically create problems in night driving. Cataracts are a major cause of vision loss worldwide: Almost 22 Million people are blind because of the condition. In Canada and U.S around one and a half million cataract operations are performed each year. Many people find the idea of cataracts alarming assuming that if they develop them they will become blind. In truth, however, cataracts are one of the least serious eye disorders because surgery can restore lost sight in most instances.
MACULAR DEGENERATION: caused by a diminished blood supply to the macula (the center of the vision area) and combination of toxicity chemical process, can affect reading acuity and visual sharpness.
These illnesses can affect one or both eyes. Because they generally come on gradually and are usually painless, they often are mistaken for the normal effects of aging on the eyes.
How Serious is Failing Eyesight?
The moderate degree of eyesight failure that is normal to aging is not serious and can be corrected with eyeglasses. Cataracts and diseases of the eyes are serious because they have the potential for significant loss of vision and results in major injuries, for example, falls and others foreseeable accidents.
Cataracts and glaucoma usually can be treated. Macular degeneration is sometimes treated with laser therapy, although the results often are disappointing; recently other therapeutic resources are coming through chelation therapy, with certain benefits to some patients.
What Can Be Done?
Many low vision-aids are available. Finding one that`s right for you can take some trial and error, so be patient. Here is a list of just some of the devices that are available:
Good lighting. As you grow older, you need more light, whether you have vision problems or not . A flexible light, such as a gooseneck lamp, can direct illumination onto your reading or work area.
Special Eyeglasses: Bifocal, or trifocal glasses (under medical prescription) that are stronger than normal may help. Also high-power, prismatic “half-eye” reading glasses are available.
Magnifiers. Magnification devices come in many styles. Mounted on a headband or your glasses, or even worn around your neck.
Easy to See: Practical Items: everything from magnifiers to items such as clocks, telephones, playing cards that have extra-large letters or numbers, and large-size game boards is available from mail-order catalogs and internet stores.
Telescopes: Can help you with distance viewing.
High-Tech-Systems. With the new emergent technology, video systems and implants are a reality, although expensive.