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The Big 3: Eye Diseases That Become More Likely As You Age

Eye Diseases as you Age
Eye disease can strike anyone of any age, but as you grow older, certain eye diseases become more likely. As you approach retirement age, you should be aware of these age-related eye conditions so you can keep an eye out for symptoms and undergo the necessary screening tests. To that end, read on to learn about the big three eye diseases that become more likely the older you get.

1. Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a condition in which increased pressure in the back of the eye leads to damage to the optic nerve. This condition has many possible causes. It can develop when you are young if your eye becomes injured in a car accident or similar event. Corticosteroid medications also increase the risk of glaucoma, as do other eye conditions like severe nearsightedness.
The risk of glaucoma increases significantly over the age of 60, though African-Americans tend to develop the disease a bit younger and are at a greater risk after age 40.
Symptoms of glaucoma include:
  • Blurriness in the visual field
  • Colorful circles appearing around objects or when exposed to bright light
  • Sudden decrease in visual quality
Some patients with glaucoma also begin experiencing headaches due to the increased pressure in the back of the eye and the distortions that begin appearing in their visual field. In its early stages, glaucoma is sometimes confused with ocular migraines for this reason.
Your eye doctor can diagnose glaucoma with a few simple tests to measure your eye pressure and visualize your optic nerve. If you are diagnosed, you can take medication to slow down the progression of the disease. Without treatment, your vision may continue to decline until you are blind or nearly blind.

2. Cataracts

Cataracts occur when the lens of your eye becomes opaque rather than healthy and clear. They may appear in one or both eyes. Younger people can develop cataracts if they are exposed to too much UV light or have untreated diabetes.
However, most people who develop cataracts are over the age of 40. Many people do not notice the symptoms until they are in their 60s, even if the cataracts have been developing for some time before that.
Symptoms of cataracts include:
  • Cloudy vision, especially at night
  • Double vision
  • Decreased brightness of colors
Once a cataract begins to form, it can't be healed. Your eye doctor will have to remove the cataract and replace the lens of your eye with an artificial one. Luckily, this is a very common surgical procedure that is now usually performed with lasers and associated with very little discomfort and few risks.

3. Age-Related Macular Degeneration

The macula is the part of your eye that senses light. Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is a condition in which this part of the eye becomes progressively more damaged. Most people who develop AMD are over the age of 60. You are at a higher risk of the condition if you smoke or have a family history of the disease.
It's very important to see your eye doctor for regular eye exams because AMD does not cause any symptoms in its early stages. By the time you notice symptoms like a loss of peripheral vision or blurry vision, you may be in the late stage of the condition, and treatment won't be as effective.
AMD cannot be reversed, but medication can slow its progression. The earlier you begin taking them, the better since without treatment, AMD will eventually lead to extreme tunnel vision and blindness.
If you are an older adult, you should see your eye doctor for regular eye exams. Doing so will ensure these and any other eye-related eye diseases are detected early. If you are due for an eye exam, contact Harry W. Chan, OD to set up an appointment today.