One in four Canadians develop irreversible vision loss by age 75, reports the National Coalition for Vision Health. However, older adults can take positive steps to protect their eyesight and preserve vision as 75% of vision loss is preventable or treatable, according to the Sheridan Centre for Elder Research.
The four leading causes of severe vision loss in older adults are age-related macular degeneration (AMD), eye complications from diabetes, glaucoma and age-related cataracts, according to American Family Physician.
Follow these eye-care strategies to help protect your vision:
1. Protect your eyes from the sun. Exposure to sunlight increases the risk of developing AMD and cataracts, says the Canadian Institute for the Blind (CNIB). Wear a hat with a brim and choose sunglasses with at least 98% ultraviolet (UV) ray protection.
2. Eat healthy and keep active. A nutritious diet high in fresh fruits, dark green, leafy vegetables and omega-3 fatty acids may lower the risk of developing AMD. Exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight and controlling blood pressure also help keep your eyes healthy, according to CNIB.
3. Get a comprehensive eye exam yearly. Many serious eye diseases, such as glaucoma, have no symptoms and can only be detected through an eye exam.
4. Screen for and treat AMD. It’s the leading cause of vision loss in North America for adults over 55, says the Canadian Association of Optometrists (CAO). Optometrists use a test called the Amsler Grid to detect changes in central vision that may result from macular damage. Early detection and treatment with medication is crucial, and ocular vitamin supplements can slow progression of AMD, says CAO.
5. Treat cataracts to sharpen vision. In the early stages of a cataract, an optometrist can sometimes prescribe new lenses for your glasses to sharpen cloudy vision. When cataracts start to interfere with your daily activities, you can be referred to an eye surgeon to remove cataracts, says CAO. Cataract surgery is a safe and common treatment that can restore good vision.
6. Detect and treat glaucoma early. Protect yourself with dilated eye exams yearly, since untreated glaucoma can lead to vision loss and blindness. Glaucoma can be treated with prescription eye drops, lasers or surgery, says the National Institute on Aging (NIA).
7. Prevent diabetic retinopathy. If you have diabetes, have a dilated eye exam at least once a year, advises NIA. Keeping your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol under control can prevent or slow the progress of this condition.