Of the five human senses, our vision is often the one we value most. Life abounds with beautiful sights that give us enjoyment and inspiration. Our vision is something to be cherished and protected.
As we age, most of us experience some degree of impaired or reduced vision. In most cases, this can be easily corrected by having an eye examination and being fitted with prescription glasses or contact lenses. In other instances, vision problems can be improved with corrective surgery.
However, senior adults whose vision problems are not correctable are considered to be living with “low vision.” Low vision differs from normally occurring age-related vision changes and is usually caused by health conditions such as macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetes, eye injuries or birth defects.
Low Vision and Macular Degeneration Are a Growing Concern
Elaine Austin, Executive Director of Provident Village at Creekside in Smyrna, GA, says,“Low vision should be taken very seriously. According to experts in vision and aging, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness among Americans who are age 65 and older. And because individuals in this group are an increasing percentage of the general population, vision loss from macular degeneration is a growing concern.”
“Therefore, if you are in a high-risk group or notice signs and symptoms of AMD, you should see your doctor right away. Early detection is important to successful treatment of eye diseases.”
AMD affects central vision – where the sharpest vision occurs – by distorting the center of a person’s field of vision. This interferes with daily activities such as driving, reading, writing, recognizing faces and watching TV.
Who Is Most at Risk?
Experts advise that while the specific cause of macular degeneration remains unknown, those at greatest risk of AMD typically have certain risk factors. According to the National Eye Institute, the American Academy of Ophthalmology and other knowledgeable sources,these risk factors include:
- Age – Individuals over 60
- Genetics – A family history of AMD
- Skin Color – Caucasians have a higher rate of AMD
- Gender – Females have a higher rate of AMD, although it may be because they live longer
- Eye Color – Having light-colored eyes
- Habits – Smoking, high levels of sun exposure
- Health Issues – Such as heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity
- Diet – Poor with a low intake of antioxidants
Recognizing the Warning Signs
Low vision progresses gradually. Therefore, it can be difficult for senior adults to recognize the symptoms. However, vision specialists advise that you should see your doctor if you notice any of the following signs:
- Difficulty in recognizing familiar faces
- Inability to read street signs or names on buildings
- Difficulty in doing close work such as reading, cooking, sewing,
- Trouble doing normal tasks because the light seems too dim
Reducing Your Risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Although there is currently no cure for AMD, there are a number of things you can do to reduce your chances of getting the disease and experiencing AMD-related vision loss.
Chris A. Knobbe, MD, ophthalmologist and former faculty member at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, offers some useful tips you can use to prevent or slow the progression of macular degeneration. In addition to having regular eye exams, he recommends the following:
- Don't smoke
- Eat plenty of dark, leafy green vegetables, such as raw spinach
- Eat fish or take a fish oil supplement and eat fruit and nuts daily
- Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight
- Limit your intake of refined carbohydrates (high-glycemic index foods)
- Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol under control
- Wear sunglasses outdoors to block UV and blue light that may cause eye damage
- Take a balanced multivitamin/multimineral supplement, such as Centrum Silver, unless your doctor advises otherwise
- If you already have AMD, ask your doctor about one of the AREDS formulations or other supplements specially formulated for macular health
Coping with Low Vision
If you are already living with low vision, the American Academy of Ophthalmology claims that there are many devices specifically designed to help you function better. These include various magnifying devices, electronic books, e-book readers and audio books.
Different devices are available for different tasks. A trained professional can help you understand which device is best for accomplishing your particular needs. For additional resources for low vision with macular degeneration, visit SmartSight: Making the Most of Remaining Vision.
“By understanding the signs, symptoms and risk categories for low vision and taking proper preventive steps, you can reduce your odds of age-related vision problems and continue to enjoy the vibrant world that surrounds you,” says Elaine.
Your Family Resource for Senior Living Information, Resources and Support
In addition to providing exceptional assisted living and memory care for loved ones, Provident Village at Creekside also serves as a valuable source of information, resources and support for area families. We invite you to read our regular articles and tips on important senior care topics, as well as to join us for our free, public education programs and events each month.
We also welcome you to call us with any questions you might have.
Live Vibrantly! at Provident Village at Creekside
At Provident Village at Creekside, we believe vibrant days ensure bright tomorrows, so we've created a community where seniors, quite simply, Live Vibrantly! Whether it's in our Assisted Living Community or Memory Care Neighborhood, each day we celebrate the individuality and strengths of each resident.
At Provident Village, to Live Vibrantly! means that days are filled with joy, vitality, growth and security. It means residents are socially active and personally empowered, with access to the personalized care and support they need to live fully. It means residing in a community where intellectual, social, emotional, spiritual and physical care are seamlessly integrated into everyday life.
Our compassionate Care Partners dedicate each day to enriching the lives of our residents. They customize the level of attention and activities to each resident's specific needs and abilities. Our living environments are warm and inviting, with comfortable furnishings, beautiful fixtures and natural elements that bring the outdoors inside.