Your eyes are not only the windows to your soul but also to your health. That’s we recommend you have regular eye exams starting at age 40—even if you have no vision issues. That’s not to say that you don’t need an eye exam if you’re younger. But after age 40, you are more susceptible to signs of aging, which can lead to debilitating—and even dangerous—conditions if not caught early, especially if you have a family history.
So, let’s look at four eye diseases you need to know about if you’re age 40 or over.
Glaucoma is an eye disease that damages your eye’s optic nerve, which communicates visual cues to your brain. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). More than three million people in the U.S. suffer with glaucoma—but only half of them know. If it’s caught early enough, it can be treated.
There are a few forms of glaucoma, and some have no symptoms at the start. As eye pressure increases, blind spots can develop in your peripheral vision. Regular eye exams can catch this early before the blind spots grow and affect your daily living and quality of live. Your doctor may prescribe medicated eye drops, although surgery may also be an option. Without treatment, vision loss can start with your peripheral vision and grow into total blindness.
If you have a family history of eye disease or if you are of African, Latino, or Asian heritage, you may be at an increased risk for glaucoma.
Macular degeneration occurs when an area in your retina, that helps you see fine details clearly, starts to break down. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of blindness in U.S. adults. According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), the number of people with AMD is estimated to more than double from about 2.07 million now to 5.44 million by the year 2050.
Macular degeneration can start out symptomless or as a distortion in your central vision. If you experience such a change in your vision, it is serious and requires immediate attention. Whether you have dry or wet macular degeneration will determine the treatment plan, although it is not curable. Treatments may include antioxidants, vitamin and mineral supplements, and thermal laser eye treatment.
While there’s no way to prevent AMD, you can help slow its progression with the following methods.
- Proper blood pressure control
- Eye-healthy foods (e.g., cold water fish, nuts, vegetable oils, citrus fruits, dark green leafy vegetables, and whole grains)
- Lower body fat levels
- Not smoking
- Regular eye exams
Although rare (experienced by about 1% of the population), retinal detachment can happen due to aging, injury, or rubbing your eyes too hard. You may also be more susceptible to retinal detachment of you are near-sighted, but that’s not a reason to panic.
You may recall that Today Show host Savannah Guthrie recently experienced retinal detachment when playing with her young son; he threw his fire truck, which hit her in the eye.
Retinal detachment symptoms include a sudden onset of flashes of light or new floaters suddenly appearing in your vision. Some patients may also experience a dark shadow starting in their peripheral vision and expanding.
These symptoms are the sign of an urgent condition and require immediate treatment. Depending on the severity of detachment, laser, freezing treatments, or surgery may be an option. Another option is to have a small gas bubble inserted into the eye; this is what Savannah Guthrie needed.
Cataracts occur when the natural lens in your eye becomes cloudy. Almost all people will experience cataracts as they age. However, they can occur sooner in patients who smoke, suffer a trauma, or have significant sun exposure. Nearly 25 million adults over 40 have cataracts, and more than 50% of people over 80 have them.
Cataract symptoms are usually gradual: blurry vision, halos, or glare. Some patients may also experience double vision in one eye or a loss of contrast sensitivity.
Cataracts are treated through cataract surgery, a very common procedure involving small incisions, which are usually less than 3 millimeters. Without surgery, your vision may decline over time, and a successful surgery will be more difficult to perform as cataracts worsen. And if caught early enough, you may only need new prescriptive eyewear.
If you are age 40 or over, it’s important to schedule an annual eye exam to stay on top of any changes in your vision—major or minor—in order to maintain the best vision possible as you age.
Are you age 40 or older? Don’t wait to make your next appointment!
Dr. Fruchtman will help you maintain the best possible vision as you age.
Call us today!