The Aging Eye - Top 5 Conditions
September is Healthy Aging Month. We can’t think of a better time to discuss 5 of the most common eye conditions encountered, as we get older. In no particulare order, presbyopia, dry eye, cataract, glaucoma, and macular degeneration are the most frequent ailments of the aging population.
Presbyopia is a result of the aging of the natural lens in our eye. This lens is slowly changing until we ultimately have cataract surgery, typically in our 60s or 70s. With time the lens loses its ability to change shape to focus from distance to near. In our 40s this gets to the point where many will need reading glasses or bifocals to see up close. As this process continues, the power of the reading glasses or bifocals will continue to increase until it plateaus in our late 50s. For a more detailed discussion on presbyopia, click on the following link. https://www.summiteyekc.com/blog/struggling-to-read-now-that-you-are-45-welcome-to-presbyopia
As we age, the incidence of dry eye increases. There is also an increased prevalence in women compared to men. Common symptoms of dry eye are watery eyes, fluctuating vision, burning and feeling like there is something in the eye. The natural tear film consists of 3 different layers an inner mucus layer, a middle watery later and an outer oily layer. Dry eye can be broken down into two main types aqueous deficient dry eye (lacking enough of the watery component of our tears) and evaporative dry eye (lacking enough of the oily component of our tears). There are numerous treatment options for dry eye. The treatment that is best for each patient depends on the type of dry eye you have and how severe it is. The following link provides a more thorough discussion of dry eye and its treatment. https://www.summiteyekc.com/blog/dry-eye
Cataracts are a clouding of the natural lens within the eye. Cataracts are the most common cause of vision loss among adults over the age of 40. Cataract surgery is how they are treated. With cataract surgery, the surgeon will remove the cataract and replace it with a lens implant. Calculations are taken prior to surgery so that the surgeon can select an implant lens of the appropriate power to correct a person’s nearsightedness or farsightedness. If there is astigmatism present, a patient can choose to have a toric intraocular lens implanted to correct his or her astigmatism. There are also extended depth of focus lenses (EDOF) and multifocal lenses that can reduce the need for reading glasses after cataract surgery. Learn more about cataracts here. https://www.summiteyekc.com/blog/what-is-a-cataract
Currently, about 3 million people in the United States have glaucoma. This number is projected to grow to 4.2 million by 2030. Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve in the back of the eye. The optic nerve is responsible for transmitting visual information gathered in the eye to the back of the brain where it is transformed into the images that we see. With glaucoma, there is a gradual loss of nerve tissue resulting in blind spots or areas of our vision that are missing. Up to 40% of the optic nerve can be damaged before a patient is symptomatic of their vision loss. As a result, glaucoma is often referred to as the “silent thief of sight”. Because so much damage can occur before symptoms present, it is important for people over the age of 50 to have a yearly, dilated eye exam. African American and Latino populations have an increased incidence of glaucoma. Currently, the only treatment for glaucoma is to lower the pressure in the eye. This is done through medications, laser treatment or various surgical options. The following link provides more information regarding glaucoma. https://www.summiteyekc.com/blog/what-is-glaucoma
Macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in patients over the age of 60. The incidence of AMD increases with each decade of life. The damage from macular degeneration occurs within the central part of the retina, called the macula. This part of the retina is responsible for our central vision. With macular degeneration, there is an accumulation of cellular debris within the retinal tissue. This debris results in a disruption of the organization of the photoreceptors, which gather the light that enters the eye. There are 2 types AMD: Dry and Wet. About 90% of those with macular degeneration have dry AMD and the other 10% have wet AMD. The treatment for dry AMD is vitamin supplementation. The treatment for wet AMD are various medications that limit bleeding and leaking of fluid. The main risk factors for AMD are smoking, race (higher incidence among Caucasians), family history and age. Learn more about macular degeneration here. https://www.summiteyekc.com/blog/macular-degeneration-what-do-i-need-to-know