Your eyes enable you to see. Light, reflected from objects, stimulates receptors in your eyes. Signals are then sent along your optic nerve to the brain where the image is interpreted. Unfortunately as you age, your eyes may not function as well and your vision can diminish.
The eye’s lens is composed of proteins and water, and is responsible for focusing light. With time, the lens can harden and cloud over to impair your vision. These changes are gradual, and by age 65, everyone has some degree of cloudiness or cataracts. Cataract surgery can replace a cloudy lens with a clear artificial lens. Your risk for cataracts increases with smoking, a family history of cataracts, ultra violet light exposure, and diabetes.
Age Related Macular Degeneration
The macula is the pea-sized area of cells at the back of the eyeball that senses light. Age related macular degeneration occurs as the result of damage to the macula and is the number one reason for blindness among the elderly. About 25% of people over 65 have age related macular degeneration. You are at increased risk if you are a smoker, obese, Caucasian, female, or have a family history of the disease.
Glaucoma is an increase in pressure within your eyeball which presses against the optic nerve to cause damage. It is the second most common reason for blindness among older people. About 330,000 Canadians have glaucoma but about half don’t know it due to there being few symptoms associated with the disease. Regular use of eye drops is can help reduce pressure, control glaucoma and prevent vision loss. If you have diabetes, a family history of the disease or a previous history of an eye injury, you are more at risk for developing glaucoma.
Here are several tips for good eye health which everyone, regardless of age, can use:
- Get regular eye check-ups.
- If you wear prescription glasses, make sure that your prescription is current.
- Be aware of any changes in vision and get them checked as soon as possible.
- Eat a well balanced diet and make sure that it contains lots of antioxidant-rich, green, leafy vegetables.
- If you are overweight, lose weight.
- If you smoke, quit.
- If you have diabetes make sure that you practice good control.
- If you have dry eyes, keep them moist – various artificial tears products are available.
- Don’t share eye drops or use expired eye drops.
- Wear sun glasses that provide UV protection, even on cloudy days.