As we age, our vision gradually gets worse. Some people experience problems with visual impairment even in their youth, while others start having problems as older adults.
Why do we start losing our vision when we get to a certain age?
There can be different reasons for visual impairment, but the most common causes of vision loss in older adults are AMD, cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy.
These causes usually have similar symptoms, and it is difficult to tell them apart if you are not a physician. We will try to help you determine what is causing your vision loss, but remember, once you start having vision problems, consult your doctor immediately.
AMD (Age-related Macular Degeneration)
The most common cause of poor vision in seniors is age-related macular degeneration. The risk for getting AMD rises over the years. Smoking and cardiovascular disease can contribute to the development of the degeneration, as well as a family history of AMD.
There are so-called dry and wet AMD. Dry AMD is the more common type, and includes geographic atrophy and drusen (deposits under the retina). Although wet AMD is less common, it causes severe vision loss more often.
The symptoms are usually problems with reading, blurred vision, central vision loss, and image distortion. However, some of these symptoms can also be symptoms of other diseases.
According to certain studies cataracts, not AMD, is the main cause of loss of vision. Whatever the main reason is, it is certain that cataracts are dangerous and can cause blindness.
A cataract is a clouding of the lens. There are three types of cataracts: nuclear, subcapsular, and cortical. Nuclear cataracts are common in older adults and form in the nucleus of the lens. Subcapsular cataracts form at the back of the lens and are common among people with diabetes. Cortical cataracts begin in the periphery of the lens.
The symptoms are usually blurred vision and objects such as headlights glaring in a strange way.
In the case of glaucoma, the optic nerve is damaged, which causes problems with eyesight. Depending on the type, people can develop glaucoma over the years without noticing any symptoms. When a person becomes aware of the problem, usually the disease has already progressed.
Similarly to AMD, glaucoma is more common among people with a family history of this disease. Also, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes increase the risk. Glaucoma is dangerous because patients can’t recover their eyesight. Thus, immediately seek a doctor’s help if you notice changes in your vision.
The symptoms are usually blurred vision, eye pain, head pain, nausea, and even temporary sight loss.
People with type 1 and type 2 diabetes are in danger of developing diabetic retinopathy. This condition damages blood vessels of the retina. It causes significant vision problems, and even leads to blindness.
The symptoms are usually blurred vision, spots and dark areas in your vision, and loss of vision.
The longer you suffer from diabetes, the higher the chances for developing diabetic retinopathy. Also, make sure you control your blood sugar level. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and pregnancy while having diabetes, also increase the chances of developing vision problems.
To avoid vision loss, pay a visit to an ophthalmologist at least once a year. Caring for your vision may discover problems in time for you to have successful treatment.
These are the 4 most common causes of vision loss in the elderly, but they are surely not the only ones. Some of them are preventable, some not. Nevertheless, make sure you visit your eye doctor regularly, especially if you have diabetes. In some cases, early discovery may prevent you from losing your eyesight completely.
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