Vision loss is common in the elderly. Studies show 1/3 of older adults have some form of vision-reducing eye disease by the age of 65. The most common causes of vision loss are cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy.
Cataracts are the most common cause of blindness worldwide, and are common in those 65 and older. In America, they usually don’t lead to blindness, because we have the skills and technology to perform cataract surgery and correct the issue. It is a safe and effective option for an elderly person with cataracts.
A cataract refers to when the lens becomes opaque and interferes with vision. It can take place slowly over the years, so if regular eye visits are not being made, your parent may have a cataract and not know it. If she complains of blurry vision to you or your senior home care provider, then a visit to your eye doctor should take place to find the cause. Hopefully, and likely, she may just need a prescription change, but a visit will make sure it’s not something more serious like a cataract.
Overall, glaucoma is a term for a group of disorders characterized by optic nerve damage and visual field loss. Fluid builds up in front of the eye and puts pressure on the eye, hence, causing damage to the optic nerve. It is a significant cause of blindness in the United States and is the most common cause of blindness among black Americans and Latinos.
Symptoms of glaucoma come on slowly. In short, they include your parent feeling eye pressure or pain, experiencing headaches, and seeing rainbow-colored halos around lights. If your parent has diabetes or high blood pressure, she is also more likely to develop glaucoma. You need to seek treatment immediately if you or your senior home care provider notice these symptoms. There are options to reduce the amount of ongoing vision loss, but once the damage has been done, it cannot be reversed.
Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss for the elderly. It’s caused by deterioration of the macula, a small area in the center of the retina in the back of the eye. Macular degeneration causes central vision loss. Your parent may notice several things with her eyesight if AMD is beginning to occur, specifically:
- reduction in central vision
- distortion of straight lines in her field of vision
- need for brighter lighting
- difficulty adapting to low lights
- trouble recognizing faces
Your senior home care provider may recognize the lighting issues and call that to your attention for an eye exam.
In brief, diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that damages the eyes. Over time, the blood vessels in the back of the eye become damaged and sensitive to light. Most people notice only mild vision problems at first, but if left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can lead to blindness. If your parent has diabetes, routine eye exams should be part of her health care to keep an eye on this complication from diabetes.