As you grow older, you may begin to encounter health changes related to aging. This can also include your eyes. Cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration are all common conditions that may affect your vision as you age. Recent advances in eye care have significantly improved treatments for these conditions and are able to preserve and even enhance your vision.
Cataracts are the clouding of the focusing lens in the middle of your eyes, causing your vision to become blurry or obscured. These form naturally and gradually as you age, and as such it is important to be treated before your vision becomes too impaired or begins to affect how you live your life and perform daily tasks.
There are three main types of cataracts; posterior subcapsular cataracts that form inside your lens capsule, cortical cataracts that form in the middle section of the lens, and nuclear sclerotic cataracts that form in the center of the lens. Each of these sections are a different layer within your lens, and cataracts in any of these three can obscure your vision. Cataract surgery is performed the same way for all three different types of cataracts.
If you experience a lot of glare when driving at night, feel like you’re seeing the world through a film, or have noticed that your vision has become blurry, you may be developing a cataract. Advances in cataract surgery can correct for near and farsightedness, astigmatism and the need for bifocals by using toric and multifocal lenses. If you are unsure about whether or not you need cataract surgery, this self-evaluation survey can help you figure out if cataract surgery is right for you.
Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in people over 60. Glaucoma causes damage to your optic nerve by increasing intraocular pressure or by blocking nutrients to your optic nerve. Many people are asymptomatic and you may be unaware you have glaucoma until significant vision loss has occurred. Regular check-ups are important to detect early signs of changes in your optic nerve.
There are two general types of glaucoma, open-angle and narrow-angle. Open-angle glaucoma is like a clogged drain, preventing fluid from leaving the eye, or too much fluid is made to be properly drained. This raises the pressure in the eye gradually until optic nerve damage occurs. Narrow-angle glaucoma occurs because the drainage canal becomes very narrow and lowers the fluid outflow. If the drainage canal becomes too narrow it can close off entirely, which quickly creates a steep rise in pressure.
While glaucoma is commonly treated with special eye drops, a new type of surgery called MIGS has been recently developed that can reduce the need for drops. MIGS can be performed alongside other eye-related surgeries and is constantly evolving to better serve patients. If you dislike the idea of taking drops regularly, then MIGS may be a great alternative for you.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) occurs when the part of the retina called the macula becomes damaged. AMD affects the central portion of both your far and near vision while leaving your peripheral vision unaffected, so while the edge of your vision may remain clear, everything you focus on will seem blurry. There are two types of AMD; dry and wet.
Dry AMD can cause a gradual blurring of your central vision over time. This can be treated with prescribed high dose antioxidant vitamins to slow its progression. Wet AMD occurs when new blood vessels grow below the macula. The new vessels leak and cause scarring of your macula. Advances in treatment with anti-VEGF medications can slow the leakage of the blood vessels and allow some of your vision to recover and may halt further loss of vision.
As you age, your eyelids will naturally begin to droop. While natural, a sagging eyelid may obstruct your vision. Blepharoplasty, more commonly known as eye lift surgery, is a type of surgery done to remove or tighten droopy skin on the upper or lower eyelid, restoring a more youthful appearance to your eyes. This surgery can also fix sagging eyelids that obstruct your vision by making an incision around the natural creases in your eyelids and removing extra tissue until they achieve a better shape. This type of surgery can be done for both functional and cosmetic reasons, so whether you want to regain some youthful charm or want to restore your vision, you should consider having a Blepharoplasty procedure.
These diseases come as a natural part of aging and are more likely to happen the older you get. Luckily, so many new types of treatments are available for these diseases that we used to fear. The earlier you are diagnosed, the more treatment options you have available to you. The most important thing you can do is get your eyes checked regularly and to make an appointment if you have any sudden vision changes.