There is a famous quote attributed to William Shakespeare that “The eyes are the window to the soul.” While the words might be immortal, there are very real biological concerns as our loved ones age. While near-nearsightedness (myopia) and far-farsightedness (hyperopia) are very common in any age group, there are other, more age specific ailments of the eyes that our elderly could experience
A very common disease of the eye as we age is glaucoma. While there are three types of glaucoma, (open-angle, closed-angle, and normal-tension), they all share similar results; damage to the optic nerve and loss of vision. The main cause of this is increased pressures in the eye due to the retention of fluid. This could have many causes, including high blood pressure, chronic migraines, obesity, and a genetic predisposition to the ailment.
Another concern for aging eyes are various disorders of the retina. A very common disorder that many people are familiar with is macular degeneration. This affects the visual processes of the eye, and can result in blurry vision or losing center vision. A history of the disorder in a family leads to increased risk. If your loved one has diabetes, then they are at risk for diabetic retinopathy, which can also lead to blindness.
Cataracts are another common eye ailment. Common risk factors are smoking, diabetes, sun exposure and alcohol. Cataract surgery can be very effective, and is considered an outpatient procedure in most cases. Recovery time is short, and the benefits are immense in keeping our loved ones independent.
There are many ways to treat and manage these disorders of the eyes, and they are best treated when identified early. Regular check-ups and annual visits to an optometrist can help spot these disorders early on, resulting in better outcomes and longer retention of vision. With proper care and maintenance, it is possible to keep those “windows to the soul” clean and bright.
If a loved one experiences impaired or loss of vision for any reason, it is important to have a discussion about their lifestyle, including taking away their license or looking for caregivers. The State of Michigan maintains a Bureau of Services for Blind Persons to help people with vision impairments remain independent. They can be reached at (888)-864-1212 or through their website at www.michigan.gov/BSBP.