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Eyesight problems that plague seniors—and how to avoid them

Lynn Wittman, O.D.'s picture
senior eye health
senior eye health

Have you noticed any changes in vision? As we age, it’s not uncommon for eyesight to become impaired. Glacuoma, cataracts, age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) and diabetic retinopathy are the most common eye disorders experienced by seniors. I see my fair share of patients with these conditions in my role as optometrist at Hebrew SeniorLife and, while eye problems are irritating for anyone, they are particularly frustrating for seniors as impairment hinders independence.

Here is more information about the commonly developed eye conditions among older adults—so you’ll be knowledgable about the condition and proactive about speaking with your physician, should the need arise.

·   Glaucoma is a disease in which a buildup of pressure within the eye causes damage to the optic nerve and, therefore, to vision. If glaucoma is detected in its early stages, it can be effectively treated to prevent vision loss.

·   Cataracts are fairly common in the elderly. They occur when the transparent lens of the eye becomes cloudy or opaque. Cataracts are easily treated with outpatient surgery, one of the most common operations performed in the United States today. New, less-invasive surgical procedures are constantly being refined.

·   Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) is the leading cause of vision impairment in people over 70. It is a degenerative disease that affects the macula, a small spot in the central area of the retina that is responsible for sight in the center of the field of vision. ARMD almost never results in total blindness, but can have a profound effect on simple, everyday activities. Some cases of ARMD can be treated with laser surgery.

·   Diabetes can cause diabetic retinopathy, damage to blood vessels in the eyes. About 80 percent of people who have had diabetes for 15 years or more will suffer from this impairment. Keeping blood sugar under control can lessen the impact of diabetes on the eyes. A yearly eye check-up is mandatory.

Even though patients come to my office to discuss their vision, I make sure they are getting regular medical check-ups as well. A medical check-up is an excellent way to detect treatable diseases, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, which can affect vision as mentioned above. In addition, if a senior notices loss or dimness of vision, eye pain, or discharge from the eyes, they should see an ophthalmologist. And of course, an annual eye exam is very important.

More ways to care for your eyes.

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Optometrist

Dr. Lynn Wittman is an optometrist on the medical staff at Hebrew SeniorLife. She is available for vision related appointments in the outpatient practice at NBOC. Dr. Wittman is a graduate of the New England College of optometry. In addition to her HSL practice, Dr. Wittman works at Newton Eye in Wellesley. She is available to see NewBridge residents on Wednesday mornings.

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