78 percent of aging Americans affected by vision loss; Pennsylvania Optometric Association gives advice to protect eyesight
It’s an unfortunate fact of life that vision can change over time, resulting in noticeable differences in how well adults see the world around them. In fact, 78 percent of adults age 55 or older report experiencing some vision loss according to the American Optometric Association’s (AOA) 2014 American Eye-Q® consumer survey.
“The number of blind and visually impaired people is expected to double over the next 16 years,” said the AOA’s Vision Rehabilitation Section chair, Dr. Brenda Heinke Motecalvo. “This staggering statistic has implications for millions of aging Americans, but these changes don’t have to compromise a person’s lifestyle. Maintaining good health and seeing an eye doctor on a regular basis are important steps to help preserve vision.”
More common age-related vision problems include difficulty seeing things up close, far away or in low light, and sensitivity to light and glare. Some symptoms may seem like minor vision problems, but may actually be warning signs of serious eye diseases that could lead to permanent vision loss. Those diseases include:
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD): An eye disease affecting the macula, the center of the light sensitive retina at the back of the eye. AMD can cause loss of central vision.
- Cataracts: A clouding of the lens of the eye that usually develops slowly over time and can interfere with vision. Cataracts can cause a decrease in visual contrast between objects and their background, a dulling of colors and an increased sensitivity to glare.
- Diabetic retinopathy: A condition occurring in people with diabetes, which causes progressive damage to the tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina. The longer a person has diabetes, the more likely they are to develop the condition, which can lead to blindness.
- Glaucoma: An eye disease leading to progressive damage to the optic nerve due to rising internal fluid pressure in the eye. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness.
Another common and often chronic condition that Americans can experience later in life is dry eye. This occurs when there are insufficient tears nourishing the eye. Tears maintain the health of the front surface of the eye and assist in clear, quality vision. Studies show that women are more likely to develop dry eye, especially during menopause.
By 2030, aging Americans will represent 19 percent of the population, which is an increase from 12 percent in 2000. Coping with age-related eye diseases and disorders and the resulting changes in health and lifestyles is a priority for this growing group of consumers. The AOA’s American Eye-Q® survey revealed that 40 percent of consumers age 55 or older are concerned about losing their independence as a result of developing a serious vision problem. Many eye diseases lack early symptoms and may develop painlessly; therefore, adults may not notice vision changes until the condition is advanced. Creating a healthy lifestyle helps to ward off eye diseases and maintain existing eyesight.
“Eating a low-fat diet rich in green, leafy vegetables and fish, not smoking, monitoring blood pressure levels, exercising regularly and wearing proper sunglasses to protect eyes from UV rays can all play a role in preserving eyesight and eye health,” explained Dr. Montecalvo. “Early diagnosis and treatment of serious eye diseases and disorders is critical and can often prevent a total loss of vision, improve adults’ independence and quality of life.”
For those suffering from age-related eye conditions, the Pennsylvania Optometric Association (POA) recommends the following tips:
- Control glare: Purchase translucent lamp shades, install light-filtering window blinds or shades, use matte or flat finishes for walls and countertops and relocate the television to where it does not reflect glare.
- Use contrasting colors: Decorate with throw rugs, light switches and telephones that are different colors so 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.
- Change the settings on mobile devices: Increase the text size on the screen of smartphones and tablets and adjust the screen’s brightness or background color.
- 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.
Yearly eye exams provide the best protection for preventing the onset of eye diseases and permits adults to continue living active and productive lifestyles as they age. To find a doctor of optometry, or for more information on age-related eye conditions, please visit www.poaeyes.org.
About the survey:
The ninth annual American Eye-Q® survey was created and commissioned in conjunction with Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates (PSB). From March 20-25, 2014, PSB conducted 1,000 online interviews among Americans 18 years and older who embodied a nationally representative sample of the U.S. general population. (Margin of error is plus or minus 3.10 percentage points at a 95% confidence level)
Optometric Association (POA): Pennsylvania
Optometric Association is the professional organization for over 1,250 doctors
of optometry in Pennsylvania .
An affiliate of the American Optometric Association, POA promotes the highest
quality eye and vision care by optometrists, represents optometry to state
government, provides its members with post-graduate education and membership
benefits, and conducts activities in the interest of the visual welfare of the
public. For more information, visit www.poaeyes.org. Pennsylvania
About the American Optometric Association (AOA):
The American Optometric Association, a federation of state, student and armed forces optometric associations, was founded in 1898. Today, the AOA is proud to represent the profession of optometry, America’s family eye doctors, who take a leading role in an individual’s overall eye and vision care, health and well-being. Doctors of optometry (ODs) are the independent primary health care professionals for the eye and have extensive, ongoing training to examine, diagnose, treat and manage disorders, diseases and injuries that affect the eye and visual system, providing two-thirds of primary eye care in the U.S. For information on a variety of eye health and vision topics, and to find an optometrist near you, visitwww.aoa.org.