As we age, our bodies tend to change, as does our eyesight. Many patients in their middle forties are complaining of tension headaches, difficulty seeing while driving at night, and problems reading the newspaper without holding it further away. These are considered normal age-related complaints as one turns 40 and older, but there are a few symptoms that should not be ignored and require a comprehensive eye exam to prevent vision loss and maintain healthy vision.
- Glaucoma. Over 50% of an estimated 3 million people have undiagnosed glaucoma. This eye disease can lead to blindness. What is glaucoma? It is a disease of the optic nerve — the part of the eye that carries the images we see to the brain. When damage to the optic nerve fibers occurs, blind spots develop. These blind spots usually go undetected until the optic nerve is significantly damaged. If the entire nerve is destroyed, blindness results. Recommendations:Although glaucoma may arise at any age, risks begin to increase at midlife. Early detection and treatment by your ophthalmologist are the keys to preventing optic nerve damage and blindness from glaucoma. Prescription drops can be used to control glaucoma and a new technology (an iStent) used by Dr. Shofner actually reduces the pressure in the eye. Learn more about glaucoma.
- Cataracts. Have difficulty driving at night? Are headlights blurry? What is a cataract? A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye. It can be compared to a window that is frosted or yellowed. If the cloudiness is not near the center of the lens, you may not be aware that a cataract is present. Recommendations: Cataract surgery is the only way a cataract can be removed. However, if symptoms of cataract are not bothering you very much, surgery may not be needed. Sometimes a simple change in your eyeglass prescription may be helpful. Plus, cataracts can be good news because newer surgery techniques and replacement lenses can allow you to see at all distances, in many cases without glasses or contacts. Learn more about cataracts.
- Dry Eyes. Typically caused by hormonal changes or dry heated air especially during the winter, dry eyes could also be a symptom of an auto-immune disease. Women are more likely than men to experience dry eyes in their midlife, over 52% experience dry eye symptoms regularly. Recommendations: Depending on the severity, many people can obtain relief by using artificial tears, gels and ointments. Many patients also report relief from using a humidifier at night. Patients that wear contacts should use drops recommended by their doctor. Some over the counter drops may worsen the symptoms, especially those with preservatives. It is best you use preservative free drops. Another treatment includes placing a small “plug” placed into your tear ducts to keep moisture in the eye. There are also other treatments to relieve dry eyes such as “cauterization” in which the tear ducts are sealed to keep moisture in the eye.
- Macular Degeneration. Commonly known as Age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Can you still thread a needle? What is Macular Degeneration? It is a deterioration or breakdown of the macula. The macula is a small area in the retina at the back of the eye that allows you to see fine details clearly and perform activities, such as reading and driving. Recommendations: Although the exact causes of macular degeneration are not fully understood, antioxidant vitamins and zinc may reduce the impact of AMD in some people. Certain types of “wet” macular degeneration can be treated with laser surgery, a brief outpatient procedure that uses a focused beam of light to slow or stop leaking blood vessels that damage the macula. Learn more about macular degeneration.
How to Maintain Healthy VisionPrevention is key to a healthy life as well as your vision. New studies report that exercise, diet, and quality rest all play a large role in our health and how we feel. Recommendations: Exercise regularly as eyes rely on good circulation. Avoid airborne irritants such as dust, allergens, smoke and flying debris. Dietary supplements or specific foods rich in Vitamin E and C have shown to promote eye health. Consult your physician before changing your diet as these vitamins may cause complications with other prescription medications. Quality sleep is also key and most importantly, be sure to have a comprehensive eye exam at 40 years (or sooner) and follow your doctor’s recommendations. At any time you experience noticeable changes in your vision, contact your ophthalmologist.
About Shofner Vision Center
Conveniently located in the heart of Nashville, Shofner Vision Center treats nearly every condition of the eye including LASIK and cataract surgery. Recommendations: Anyone that experiences any eye related issue should schedule a comprehensive eye exam to determine if eye damage is present or noticeable vision changes. No matter how old you are, it’s important to maintain your eyesight and Shofner Vision Center welcomes new patients.