Author: Andrea Needham, www.EldersDay.org
You can’t avoid all vision changes, but it is important for seniors to be aware of risk factors, warning signs, and how they can care for their eyes. Getting regular vision checks is the best way to stay on top of these concerns and address how vision impacts your safety and overall health. According to US News, adults over 65 should get eye exams every one to two years even if they don’t have symptoms.
What to Expect
Many seniors are caught off guard by some of the vision changes they start to experience. Some of these changes are minor, but you should bring any concerns to your eye doctor so they can help you understand what’s going on and what it may mean for your health. According to Bausch + Lomb, some of the most common changes include dryness, loss of peripheral vision, cloudy vision, and floating spots or flashes in your eyes. In many cases, there are simple remedies, but these changes may also be early warning signs of bigger changes to come.
Knowing these common changes is important, but it’s just as essential to get regular vision checks so your doctor can spot any concerns you may not be aware of. The most cost-effective way to stay on top of eye care is to make sure you have good vision coverage. Vision coverage is very limited if you have original Medicare, so you may want to look into a Medicare Advantage plan like those offered through UnitedHealthcare to get the vision care you need. Along with comprehensive vision care, most Advantage plans also provide coverage for dental care, prescriptions, and overall wellness programs.
One of the best ways to get ahead of vision problems is to know your risk factors. Risk factors can indicate a greater concern to ask your doctor about sooner rather than later. For example, the primary cause of vision loss for seniors is age-related macular degeneration (AMD). You can’t always predict whether you will have AMD, but the greatest risk factors include age (being age 60 and older), family history of AMD, history of smoking, obesity, and hypertension.
If you have more than one of these risk factors, seeing your ophthalmologist early can help you determine ways of reducing your risk and preserving your vision. One of the best examples is diabetic retinopathy, which can occur as a result of high blood sugar. Even though this is a serious concern among seniors who are diabetic, it is also preventable with early detection.
Health and Safety
Vision problems are common complications that result from other diseases, and at the same time, your eyes can be a window that helps your doctor diagnose issues you may not know you have. Along with diabetes and hypertension, an eye exam can also be used to diagnose autoimmune disorders, high cholesterol, thyroid disease, and even cancer.
The other health issue seniors should be aware of related to vision is how it affects safety. More seniors are choosing to age at home, but vision loss can present several dangers, whether you’re home or out driving. If you feel like your vision is starting to slide, don’t wait to get it checked out. When you know what’s going on, you can develop some strategies to mitigate vision loss and stay safer, especially at home. For example, everyday life can be easier with simple things like magnifiers and reading glasses.
You can also make bigger changes to your home that help. The Helping Home recommends focusing on the three Cs for low vision: color, contrast, and cues. Setting up your home with these things in mind can make things easier to find and your home easier and safer to navigate.
Thinking about bigger health concerns can be a scary prospect for seniors. Yet, as much as we want to avoid these problems, it’s better to identify and address them early. Getting your eyes checked out is the place to start — then you can move forward with a plan for better vision!
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