Vision deterioration is generally progressive and impacts a significant portion of the population. There are many conditions, such as; macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic retinal disease and, likewise, there are many treatments available, such as laser eye surgery, refractive lens exchange, implantable collamer lens surgery, and cataracts surgery.
The reality is, that the conditions I’ve mentioned above can have a significant impact on an individual’s quality of life, and, as the common saying goes, where possible prevention is better than cure.
In order to effectively safeguard your vision into later life, you should be proactively monitoring your eyes and detecting abnormalities early, by means of regular examinations.
Making changes to the way in which you live your daily life can make a real difference in maintaining healthy eyes. Lifestyle habits such as; a healthy diet, regular exercise, and adequate rest can help delay or even prevent eye-health occurring, specifically those related to ageing.
More mature individuals, such as those over the age of 60, should ensure they attend an eye examination on an annual basis as a minimum. For example, cataracts are most prevalent in those aged 80 and above, as age is the most common cause of this eye condition.
It’s critically important with eye conditions, as with most medical conditions, to fully understand the underlying cause, as well as the degree of deterioration. In order to live a full, safe, and active life, it’s vital that the cause and severity of the eye condition is identified, understood, and addressed.
For some, impaired vision can lead to inactivity, impaired mobility, withdrawal, and depression. Hence the importance of early diagnosis and effectively addressing the issue at the earliest opportunity, prior to further damage and deterioration.
Your risk of developing an eye condition may be increased due to diet – one that is high in saturated fats and sugar could contribute to worsening visual health. As you might expect, one way to help prevent age-related eye conditions is to improve your diet, incorporating healthy fruits and vegetables. This type of healthy diet may also improve your overall health.
People who consume a diet that is rich in lutein, omega-3 fatty acids, minerals, healthy proteins, and vitamins are best placed to minimise their risk of developing health conditions generally, such as; cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cataracts, and, of course, age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
It’s no secret that a well-balanced diet will contain a plethora of vegetables and fresh, colourful fruit. Generally, fruit and vegetables that are dark-green or brightly coloured will contain the most antioxidants; protecting your eyes by minimising the effect of oxidising agents that can contribute to age-related eye diseases.
Spinach and kale, for example, are a superb source of zeaxanthin and lutein; plant pigments which can also be found in broccoli, sweetcorn, and peas. These plant pigments assist in protecting the retina from oxidative changes caused by ultraviolet light.
Orange and yellow vegetables, such as carrots and sweet potatoes should also be incorporated into a healthy, balanced diet, as they’re essential for healthy vision; containing potent antioxidants.
Healthy eyes depend on good blood circulation and oxygen intake, and both can be improved by regular exercise. More generally, maintaining good health overall and reducing the risk of conditions such as diabetes can also be affected by the frequency of physical activity undertaken, as this helps maintain a healthy weight.
Exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous, and gentle exercise, such as yoga, stretching, pilates, and tai chi can all be effective ways of staying active and keeping healthy.
All adults, particularly those aged 65 and over, should aim to maintain some sort of daily physical activity, such as the variety of gentle activities noted above. It’s not just eyesight that can benefit from exercise, but also mobility, flexibility, strength, endurance, and balance. If you’re worried about falling, this type of exercise may also improve your confidence.
Sleep is hugely significant in maintaining a healthy body and mind. Poor sleeping patterns and a lack of sleep generally, can make you feel fatigued and lethargic, which can negatively impact on your overall health.
Tasks such as reading, working, or driving could also be adversely effected due to poor or inadequate sleeping patterns, and this could impact onyour overall safety, as well as your health.
Spasms and twitching can be a sign of poor sleep impacting on your eyes. Sleep deprivation can cause itchy and/or bloodshot eyes, also known as dry eye. People with this condition can also experience blurred vision and light sensitivity.
A single poor night’s sleep can have a marked effect on eye lubrication the next day. Studies show that sleep disturbance is a common finding in those who suffer from dry eye disease.
Whether you’re using your phone in your spare time or work at a computer in work, in this digital age, it’s hard to avoid using screens on a day-to-day basis. But too much time spent using digital screens can lead to poor posture, repetitive strain injuries, and musculoskeletal disorders, as well as eye strain and discomfort.
Too much screen time can also cause headaches, eye irritation, and even visual impairment, such as double or blurred vision, and this risk can increase as we age.
Elderly people who use digital screens regularly, particularly those who use computers for long periods of time, can often reduce their risk by following a number of simple steps, including:
- Ensuring good lighting
- Taking regular breaks
- Ensuring corrective eyewear is worn
Lighting is important for health in general and taking simple steps, such as ensuring that windows are kept clean and curtains are pulled back can make a significant difference in both your eye health and your comfort more generally.
As we age, our pupil reduces in size and our lenses thicken and become yellow in colour. This impeded transmission of light, meaning less of it reached the retina. In fact, a 60-year-old will, on average, receive only about 40% of the amount that a 20-year-old receives.
In order to try and prevent falls in seniors, the living space should always remain well-lit, therefore reducing the likelihood of collision with obstacles and helping maintain balance.
UV Protection for Your Eyes
The likelihood of developing cataracts can be increased due to the damage caused by strong sunlight, and wearing sunglasses or contact lenses with built-in UV filters can help protect your eyes from harmful rays.
It’s important for people – elderly people in particular – to understand that cataracts and macular degeneration are eye conditions that can worsen due to exposure to UV light, e.g. the sun’s rays. Therefore, eyewear such as glasses or contact lenses that offer UV protection can provide an excellent measure of protection.
On point to remember, however, is that some types of lenses can impair a person’s ability to see true colours and can excessively dim incoming light. It’s important to avoid these types of lenses, and ensure that the lens wearer can identify and therefore asses, changes to their environment.
As I mentioned above, ensure you visit your optometrist at least annually, particularly if you experience significant changes in your vision or have a progressive eye disease.
It’s easy to think of deteriorating eyesight as simply a part of life, but small changes, such as; improving your lighting, ensuring your consuming a healthy diet, maintaining a positive and healthy sleeping pattern, and wearing the correct prescription lenses, can help maintain healthy vision for longer.