Impaired eyesight is common among seniors. The major causes are cataracts, macular degeneration, and glaucoma. Cataracts and macular degeneration usually reduce central vision, which is used for reading, driving and other close up activities. Macular degeneration takes two forms: wet which causes distortion of central vision and dry which causes gradual blurring. Chronic glaucoma characteristically attacks peripheral vision adversely impacting balance, walking, and driving.
Untreated, these visual problems lead to issues with taking medications, keeping track of finances, walking, watching television, and can often result in social isolation. Visually impaired individuals enter nursing homes 3 years earlier on average and have increased risk of falls and hip fractures. Consequently, many elders with low vision place greater demands on community services and those caring for them. With the prospect of little improvement and sustained visual loss clinical depression is common.
Annual eye examinations which include dilation are critical for seniors. Early diagnosis allows for timely treatment, which might entail surgery, medication/multivitamin supplements or dietary changes. If you or your loved ones use eye drops to control eye pressure with glaucoma it is important to see the ophthalmologist every six months to check eye pressure and vision.
Talk to your loved one about this important screening. Preventing or treating vision loss is vital for the long term health and quality of life for seniors.
Nancy Carey, RN