Most of the time, vision loss is not directly life-threatening. However, it does have a major impact on a person's quality of life. Vision loss can contribute to feelings of depression, especially if the person cannot participate in their favorite activities anymore. Vision loss can also have dangerous consequences — people with low vision are more likely to injure themselves by tripping and falling, for example, and they're more likely to mix up their medications if they have difficulty reading the labels. To stay safe and maintain a good quality of life with vision loss, seniors and their families may need to look for solutions like home care services.
The Four Most Common Causes of Vision Loss in Seniors
Sometimes vision loss cannot be prevented. Aging places a lot of wear and tear on the body, and unfortunately, sometimes decreased vision is the natural result of that wear and tear. But certain types of vision loss can sometimes be avoided through a healthy lifestyle. The progression of most eye diseases can also be slowed down if they are discovered early enough. Vision loss may be an unavoidable part of life for some people, but there are ways to fight it.
Glaucoma is a disease that involves too much pressure in the eye. It is caused by a buildup of fluid in the front part of the eye, which is called the anterior chamber. If fluid cannot drain out of the anterior chamber well enough, the resulting pressure damages the optic nerve. This damage is permanent. Without treatment, glaucoma can cause blindness in just a few years.
The older someone is, the more likely they are to get glaucoma. Other factors, including nearsightedness and diabetes, also increase a person's glaucoma risk. Glaucoma appears to be heritable as well, so people with a family history of the disease need to be aware of their own risk of developing it.
Glaucoma can't always be prevented, but frequent screenings and appropriate treatment can help people with this disease keep their vision for longer. Many people with the early stages of glaucoma have no symptoms, so it's very important to visit the doctor for regular eye exams. Medicated eye drops are a common treatment for glaucoma. Some people also get laser eye surgery to treat this disease.
2. Age-related macular degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is a disease that - as its name implies - occurs mostly in people over the age of 50. This condition involves damage to the macula, which is the part of the eye necessary for sharp, clear vision. People with AMD often develop blurry central vision, although their peripheral vision may be unaffected. AMD can make it difficult to read, recognize faces, drive safely, and carry out many other routine tasks.
There is a genetic component to AMD, and sometimes it cannot be prevented. However, living a healthy lifestyle - exercising regularly, avoiding smoking, and eating a healthy diet - can reduce a person's chances of getting it. AMD can sometimes be treated with laser surgery.
Cataracts are the most common cause of vision loss, both in seniors and in younger people. In fact, cataracts are more common than AMD, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy — put together. It's estimated that more than half of people will develop a cataract by the time they are 80.
A cataract occurs when the lens of the eye gets clouded. This happens because proteins in the lens of the eye start sticking together, obscuring the person's vision. Cataracts can cause double vision, blurry vision, and increased or decreased sensitivity to light. They can also interfere with a person's ability to see colors.
Researchers don't know for sure what causes cataracts. However, lifestyle factors such as smoking, obesity, and alcohol consumption seem to play a role. Nearsightedness, ultraviolet radiation, and the use of certain medications can also increase a person's risk. Ultimately, there's no way to predict who will get a cataract and who won't.
Fortunately, cataracts are the most treatable form of vision loss. Cataract surgery is painless and very effective for removing cataracts and restoring vision. More than three million people in the U.S. undergo this procedure every year.
4. Diabetic retinopathy
People with diabetes are at risk for developing an eye disease called diabetic retinopathy. This condition occurs when high levels of blood sugar damage the blood vessels in the eye. This can cause swelling, bleeding, or scarring in the eye. The most common symptom of diabetic retinopathy is dark spots or "floaters" in a person's field of vision.
Everyone with diabetes is at risk for developing diabetic retinopathy. The longer a person has had diabetes, the greater their risk is. This condition can do permanent damage to the eye, so it's crucial to catch it early if it develops. People with diabetes should see their doctor for regular eyesight screenings. Early detection and appropriate blood sugar management can help prevent blindness.
Vision Issues? Consider Home Care Services in California
There are a number of different reasons why seniors may be at risk for vision loss. Some may be preventable. For instance, seniors can reduce their risk for some eye diseases by quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy weight. Sometimes, though, eye disease and vision loss are unavoidable, but that doesn't mean a senior's quality of life has to decrease. Hiring a home caregiver for even part time home care services can help seniors with vision loss stay independent and continue participating in their favorite activities as much as possible.