Presbyopia: In your 40s, you might have to remove your glasses or contacts to see close up, or you might need reading glasses. This is presbyopia and is normal for ageing eyes. Blurred near vision when reading and working at the computer is a common symptom. Correction typically includes eyeglasses or contact lenses with bifocal, trifocal or progressive lenses.
Vitreous detachment: When tiny pieces of the eye’s gel-like substance break loose in the rear of the eye, spots known as floaters typically appear or “float” across our field of vision. These are usually harmless, but a rapid or sudden onset of floaters with flashes of light could be signs of a detached retina – seek immediate medical attention.
Reduced pupil size and reactivity: With less eye musclestrength, older eyes may struggleto react and adapt to light, likewhen reading or exiting a dimlylitmovie theatre. Add more lightwhen needed, and ask aboutphotochromic lenses and antireflectivecoatings so your eyescan adjust comfortably.
Dry eyes: Over-the-counter artificial tears and prescription medications can soothe the burning, stinging and dryness caused by decreased tear production. Besides age, one major risk factor is computer work, which reduces blink rate.
Declining peripheral vision: A shrinking visual fieldincreases the risk of automobileaccidents. Be extra carefulwhen driving, especially atintersections where seeing what’son the periphery is critical.
Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD): One ofthe leading causes of blindnessamong seniors, this painlessdisease destroys the macula,resulting in blurred central visionand a disrupted ability to seedetail, colour, and even recognisefaces. There are two forms of thedisease: wet and dry. Treatmentof wet AMD includes anti-VEGFdrugs injected into the eye,laser procedure, photodynamictherapy and lifestyle changes.Certain supplements may slowthe progression of intermediatestage of wet AMD by 25%.
Diabetic Retinopathy: This is the most common diabetic eye disease, and results from progressive damage to the tiny blood vessels of the retina. If new blood vessels grow, they can bleed into the eye and block vision. It is estimated that 40% of diagnosed diabetics have some degree of retinopathy.
Cataracts: 90% of people in their 70s have some degree of cataract. Blurriness and cloudiness are common, resulting from clumping of naturally occurring protein within the lens of the eye. While cataracts can lead to blindness or glaucoma if left untreated, surgery is extremely safe, has an immense success rate, and is the most frequently performed surgery. Vision can be restored by replacing the clouded lens with a man-made intraocular lens (IOL).
Glaucoma: This ‘silent thief of sight’ rarely exhibits symptoms until damage is done. In the eyeball, a fluid called aqueous humour is constantly produced and drained. Glaucoma develops when there is excessive buildup of that fluid which creates pressure in the eye. It causes 40% of blindness cases in Singapore, yet many more people may be living with it. The only way to control it is with treatment. Damage to the eye is irreversible, but if detected early, medical treatment or surgery can prevent vision loss.
Eye care for over-40s
Play an active role in helping prevention with these practices:
- Eat healthy. Nutrients like lutein and zeaxanthin, zinc, and antioxidants in vitamins A, C and E can help lower your AMD risk. Omega-3 fatty acids can also help.
- Don’t smoke. It increases risks of early onset AMD, diabetic retinopathy, hypertension and cataract formation.
- Protect your eyes from UV exposure by wearing sunglasses.
- Control weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. All are linked with AMD, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.
- Exercise. Studies suggest that exercise can reduce the risk of AMD by up to 70%. There is also a link between physical activity and glaucoma prevention.
- Sugar control by diabetics is essential to prevent ocular complications.
- Wear safety eyewear during sports and other activities that could harm your eyes. Serious eye injuries can lead to glaucoma.
- Seek immediate medical help if you notice any abrupt changes in your eyesight.