Eye Health: An Increasing Concern for Aging Adults

It’s a fact of life that vision can change over time, resulting in a number of noticeable differences in how well aging adults see the world around them. In fact, according to the American Optometric Association’s (AOA) 2014 American Eye-Q® consumer survey, 78 percent of adults age 55 or older report experiencing some vision loss.

“The number of blind and visually impaired people is expected to double over the next 16 years,” said Dr. Inouchi, O.D.. “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.”

Common age-related vision problems include difficulty seeing things up close or far away, problems seeing in low light or at night, and sensitivity to light and glare. Some symptoms that may seem like minor vision problems may actually be signs of serious eye diseases that could lead to permanent vision loss, including:

  •  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.

Dry eye is another common and often chronic condition that Americans can experience later in life. Dry eye occurs when there are insufficient tears to nourish the eye. Tears are important for maintaining the health of the front surface of the eye and for clear, quality vision. Studies show that women are more likely to develop dry eye, especially during menopause.

Aging Americans will represent 19 percent of the population by 2030, up from 12 percent in 2000. Coping with age-related eye diseases and disorders and the resulting changes in health and lifestyles is top-of-mind for this growing group of consumers. The AOA’s American Eye-Q® survey revealed that 40 percent of consumers age 55 or older are worried about losing their ability to live independently as a result of developing a serious vision problem. Many eye diseases have no early symptoms and may develop painlessly; therefore, adults may not notice changes in vision until the condition is quite advanced. Healthy lifestyle choices can help 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, said Dr. Inouchi. “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, Dr. Inouchi recommends following a few simple tips:

  • Control glare: Purchase translucent lamp shades, install light-filtering window blinds or shades, use matte or flat finishes for walls and counter-tops 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.

Maintaining yearly eye exams, or more frequently if recommended by an eye doctor, provides the best protection for preventing the onset of eye diseases and allows adults to continue leading active and productive lifestyles as they age.

Five Tips For a Lifetime of Healthy Vision

Here are 5 tips for a life time of healthy vision.  Honolulu eye doctors, Daniel Yamamoto, O.D. and Tracie Inouchi, O.D. suggest:

  1. Schedule Yearly Comprehensive Exams. Seeing a doctor of optometry regularly will help keep you on the path to healthy eyes.
  2. Protect against UV rays. No matter the season its important to wear sunglasses.
  3. Give your eyes a break from digital device use. Practice the 20/20/20 rule: every 20 minutes take a 20 second break and look at something 20 feet away.
  4. Eat your greens. Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables – particularly the leafy green variety.
  5. Practice safe wear and care of your contact lenses. Keep them clean.
Lifetime of Healthy Vision Seeing a doctor of optometry regularly will help keep you on the path to healthy eyes.
Lifetime of Healthy Vision

Eye Myth Debunked: Carrots Don’t Make the Cut as Top Eye-Healthy Food

Many consumers know they should eat five servings of fruits and vegetables each day but what they may not know is what you eat can affect your eye health and vision as you age. Six nutrients ― antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, essential fatty acids, vitamins C and E and the mineral zinc ― have been identified as helping to protect eye sight and promote visual health.

Since the body doesn’t make these nutrients naturally, it’s important that they are incorporated into your daily diet and, in some cases, supplemented with vitamins. Yet, according to the American Optometric Association’s (AOA) 2014 American Eye-Q® survey, 73 percent of Americans do not incorporate any specific foods or supplements into their diet to help improve eye health or vision.

Carrots Don’t Make the Cut as Top Eye-Healthy Food
Carrots Don’t Make the Cut as Top Eye-Healthy Food

Also, contrary to popular belief, carrots are not at the top of the list for foods that are among the best for the eyes. To increase your intake of essential eye-healthy nutrients, the AOA recommends adding the following to your diet:

Foods rich in lutein and zeathanthin including green, leafy veggies, such as spinach, broccoli and kale and bright yellow/red foods like tomatoes, peppers, egg yolks and mangos;

  • Omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, tuna or mackerel;
  • Grapefruit, Brussels sprouts, strawberries, papaya, oranges and green peppers, which are the top sources for vitamin C;
  • Sunflower seeds, wheat germ oil, almonds, pecans and vegetable oils for Vitamin E; and
  • Turkey, oysters, crab, eggs, peanuts and whole grains for zinc.

To learn more about these important nutrients, visit www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/diet-and-nutrition.

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)