May is Healthy Vision Month
According to DeWayne Hamlin, Medical Center Director, “As we grow older, we may blame vision changes on aging, but only a comprehensive eye exam can separate serious vision impairment from ‘normal’ aging changes.” Often, these conditions are painless and gradual in onset and include:
- Blepharitis. This condition is an inflammation of lash follicles along the edge of the eyelids. It’s often caused by abnormal bacterial growth on the skin. Eyelids may itch and burn and appear swollen, red, and crusty.
- Dry eye. Tear production tends to decrease as we age. Dry eye affects both men and women but is more common among women, especially those who’ve completed menopause. Certain drugs, such as those used to treat high blood pressure, antihistamines, and sleeping pills, can cause dry eye.
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This disease damages the part of the eye responsible for detail vision (the macula). While a person who has AMD retains side (peripheral) vision, the central blind spot caused by this disease can result in an inability to read, recognize faces, or do close work.
- Cataracts. When the clear lens inside the eye becomes cloudy or develops opacities, it’s called a cataract. Cataracts can greatly impair vision; however, they don’t usually damage the eyes. Most can be successfully removed through surgery.
- Diabetic retinopathy. If a person has long-term diabetes, damage to the retina (the nerve layer inside the eye) can occur. Vision loss may occur in varying degrees, and total blindness may result.
- Glaucoma. Often called the “sneak thief of sight,” this condition can cause a gradual loss of side (peripheral) vision and may lead to total blindness. Early detection and treatment are the only ways to protect eyes from vision loss.
- Keratoconus. This is a disease of the cornea (the surface of the eye). It can occur at any age, although it’s most common in patients ages 15 to 30. Keratoconus is often associated with excessive rubbing of the eyes (see blepharitis and dry eye), wearing contact lenses, Downs syndrome, and having atopic skin diseases such as eczema. For some people, there’s no known cause. “If left undiagnosed and untreated, eye disease can cause severe impairment or blindness,” says Hamlin. “But having regular eye examinations can help save your eyesight.”
Prevent vision problems
Regular eye exams can help determine the difference between age-related changes and eye diseases that could rob you of your independence, safety, and quality of life. Talk to your primary care provider about your need for an eye exam today!