MADISON — As we age, we’re likely to experience changes in vision and an increased potential for developing age-related eye disease. Although it is likely vision changes will occur as you age, these changes don’t have to compromise your quality of life. Comprehensive eye exams performed by a licensed doctor of optometry are one of the most important, preventive ways to preserve vision and are the only way to accurately assess eye health, diagnose an eye disorder or disease and determine the need for glasses or contact lenses.
According to 2016 Wisconsin Optometric Association (WOA) President and Madison-area optometrist Dr. Callie Enyart, “Many eye diseases have no early symptoms, and they can develop without your awareness until already becoming more advanced. An annual eye exam performed by your eye doctor can help detect and manage serious eye diseases and increase your chances of maintaining healthy vision. Common eye diseases that can permanently affect your vision after age 60 include Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and cataracts.
Results from the American Optometric Association’s (AOA) Tenth Annual American Eye-Q® survey reveal that, if they developed serious vision problems, the inability to live independently would concern older Americans the most. According to the survey, 75 percent of Americans aged 55 or older reported experiencing vision problems.
In order to prevent falls and driving accidents, it’s especially important for older adults to visit their doctor of optometry and ensure their proper vision and eye health. Older adults can ease the stress on their eyes by making some simple changes:
¦ Stay safe while driving. Wear quality sunglasses for daytime driving, and use anti-reflective lenses to reduce headlight glare. Limit driving at dusk, dawn, or at night, if seeing under low light is difficult. Use extra caution at intersections, and reduce speed.
¦ Use contrasting colors. Define essential objects in your home with different colors so that they can be spotted quickly and easily.
¦ Give the eyes a boost. Install clocks, thermometers, and timers with large block letters. Magnifying glasses can also be used for reading when larger print is not available. Text size on the screen of smartphones and tablets can also be increased.
In addition, it’s important to know how other health problems can affect your vision. Individuals with diabetes or hypertension (high blood pressure) as well as those taking medications with vision and eye health-related side effects are at greatest risk for developing vision problems. As these other health care conditions commonly impact aging adults, regular eye exams in your senior years become even more important for your independence.
Knowing what to expect as you get older, and knowing when to seek professional care, is essential to protecting your vision and eye health and your quality of life. Receiving eye exams yearly (or more frequently, if recommended by an eye doctor) allows adults to continue leading active and productive lifestyles. To locate a licensed eye doctor near you, please visit http://www.woa-eyes.org/members.
This column was submitted by The Wisconsin Optometric Association (WOA), a nonprofit affiliation of licensed doctors of optometry and associated businesses dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of the vision welfare of the people of Wisconsin. The vision of the Wisconsin Optometric Association is to be the recognized authority on vision and eye health care in Wisconsin while serving as the primary advocate for the profession of optometry throughout the state.