04/06/2021 by Kim Stevens 0 Comments
Eye Care For The Elderly
Our eyes are not immune to the ageing process, and our eyesight can change dramatically over time. Eyes muscles begin to weaken from around the age of 45, and although glasses or contact lenses can help, many people aren’t aware of the ways that they can look after their eyes as they get older - and this can seriously affect their vision.
Care In Kent has put together this simple guide on eye problems that can occur as we age, and how best to care for elderly eyes.
Common Eye Problems In The Elderly
The most common eye problems affecting the elderly are cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration. If left untreated these conditions can potentially lead to vision loss.
Signs of eye problems include:
- Straight lines looking wobbly
- Having trouble judging the depth of steps/kerbs
- Difficulty driving - particularly at night
- Colours looking washed out
- Difficulty reading, even with your glasses or contact lenses
If an elderly loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s time to book an appointment with an optician or GP, in order to rule out or confirm one of the most common causes of eye problems in older people.
Generally, as we age, the lens of the eye becomes progressively opaque, and causes blurred vision. This is known as cataracts.
Wearing glasses can help to correct the vision in some cases, but it’s not uncommon to need surgery to replace the lens with an artificial one. Cataracts can develop in both eyes, although it could affect each eye differently, and the condition develops over many years - meaning that the symptoms might not be noticeable at first.
Luckily, cataracts aren’t painful and don’t irritate the eye, but signs of cataracts can be:
- Blurred or ‘misty’ vision
- Double vision
- Colours looking faded
- Bright lights being uncomfortable to look at
- Seeing a halo around bright lights
Glaucoma is another eye condition, common in the elderly, that can develop over many years.
The disease causes a rise in pressure, resulting in damage to the optic nerve that can cause loss of vision and even blindness if not detected in the early stages.
There are four different types of Glaucoma, the most common being Primary Angle Closure Glaucoma, with the first symptom normally being a loss of peripheral vision.
Other symptoms include:
- Blurred vision
- Red eye
- Tenderness around the eye
The macular is the part of the eye that is responsible for central vision, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a condition that causes that part of the eye to deteriorate.
There are two different types of AMD
Dry AMD is the most common and least serious type, with vision loss occurring over many years. This happens when the cells of the macular become damaged by a build-up of deposits called drusen - small, yellowish deposits of cellular debris that accumulate under the retina, which is the light-sensitive part at the back of your eye. This build-up happens to most people over the age of 60, and is more common in women than in men.
Wet AMD is more serious, though blessedly not as common, and occurs when abnormal blood vessels form underneath the macular and damage the cells. Untreated, an elderly person’s vision can deteriorate within days.
So, how can we prevent or slow down these types of eye conditions in the elderly?
Often, by making some simple lifestyle changes.
Going For Regular Eye Tests
Over 60’s qualify for a free eye test every two years, and over 70’s can have one every year free of charge - so there’s no excuse for your elderly loved one to not receive regular checks!
At-home eye appointments can be arranged for an older person who is house-bound.
Opticians do more than just check that you’re wearing the right prescription glasses - an eye test will pick up any eye issues - including the ones we’ve just mentioned - as well as checking for health problems such as diabetes.
We all know the importance of eating a healthy, balanced diet in general, but there are specific foods that can improve eyesight and eye health - and not necessarily carrots - although they certainly won’t hurt!
Leafy greens such as kale and spinach can lower the risk of macular degeneration as they are chock-full of antioxidants, and eating oily fats, like those found in fish and nuts can reduce the risk of dry eye syndrome, a condition most common in elderly people.
There are very few health issues that can’t be prevented or improved by stopping smoking, and eye problems are no exception.
Smoking can increase the risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration.
It could be very difficult for someone who has smoked for a very long time to stop, but the NHS stop smoking website has some advice and tips that might be helpful.
Keep Things Well-Lit
Research conducted by the NHS tells us that we need three times as much light to see well at 60 than we do at 20, so if you have an elderly loved one, make sure that they are spending their time in rooms that are adequately lit.
Keeping the curtains drawn back during the day and reading close to a window are ways to maximise the use of natural light.
In the evenings, keep areas well lit with lamps that are directed at where an older person is working/reading, and make sure that there is suitable overhead lighting in areas where trips or falls are most likely to occur - such as on the stairs, for example.
If you want to know more about how you can continue to care for an elderly loved one in their own home, why not give our dedicated team at Care In Kent a call? We specialise in a variety of at-home care services, including respite care and caring for those with dementia.