You eat a healthy balanced diet daily, exercise regularly and have an annual physical exam, in order to maintain your systemic health, but are you doing everything that you need to maintain your eye health? As we age, our eyes go through many changes and are put at risk of age-related changes. By seeing your eye care provider regularly, some eye related conditions can be monitored or even prevented.
At birth, we start off with very poor vision. When you smile at a newborn baby, it is likely that the baby is not able to see you clearly. As the eye develops and ages, it is forming connections with the brain that allow for better vision in the future. By the age of 9, vision is usually fully developed. An eye care specialist can check the eyes of a young child for any lazy eyes, refractive error (prescription) as well as ocular health. When children begin to go to school, they spend a lot more time using their near vision by reading books, studying and on screens/tablets. This can lead to an increase in myopia (nearsightedness) which can cause issues with distance vision.
In your 20-30’s most people will visit their eye doctor for an updated glasses and/or contact lens prescription. It is at this stage of life that people should follow proper contact lens hygiene and wear eye protection when doing projects that can pose a risk for ocular injuries. You should also wear sunglasses when outside to protect your eyes from UV damage which can predispose you to dry eye and early cataracts.
In your 40’s, it is a good idea to make yearly eye exams a priority. It is at this stage of life that most adults develop presbyopia, or the inability to focus the eyes up close. Some patients will complain of headaches, eye fatigue or eyebrow aches. A simple pair of reading glasses or an adjustment to your current glasses’ prescription can help relieve these symptoms. You may also start to notice some floating spots in your vision. This occurs when the jelly inside of your eye starts to break down with age. If you see flashes of light accompanying floaters, this is an emergency as it can be a sign of a retinal detachment.
Those over the age of 50 are at risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This occurs due to damage to the macula, the part of the retina that is the center of your vision. Dry AMD is the most common form while Wet AMD involves the growth of blood vessels which patients have to receive laser or injection therapy for. Dry eye can occur at any time during life; however, it is more commonly seen in your 50’s and beyond. If your eyes are constantly red and irritated it may be time to add some artificial tears to your regimen in order to make your eyes feel more comfortable.
Cataracts will start to develop in your late 50’s and continue to progress into your 60’s. When they start to affect your activities of daily living by causing glare and decreased vision, that means that it is time for cataract surgery. Cataract surgery is the most common procedure performed and can help to improve your vision and may decrease the need for glasses.
If you would like to discuss your eye health or schedule a routine eye exam with an eye care specialist, please call 860-233-2020 today.