As people age, eye problems become more common and these can range from simple long-sightedness to cataracts, retinal disease and glaucoma. It is important to notice the signs of eye problems. Children might spot elderly parents becoming clumsy, or failing to recognize people or objects. While it can be difficult to discuss sight difficulties with aging parents, children can provide much-needed support if problems are aired. When visiting the optometrist, it can be useful to prepare questions in advance. Many geriatric eye problems can be treated and options range from glasses to laser surgery.
Common Eye Problems in Older Adults
Probably one of the most common vision problems in older people is the condition known as presbyopia, which affects almost everyone and develops after the age of 40. People with presbyopia have difficulty focusing on close objects. While presbyopia can cause blurred vision, other disorders may lead to sight loss. In people over 60, age-related macular degeneration, where part of the retina becomes damaged, is the condition which most frequently causes blindness. Cataracts, which are clouded lenses inside the eyes, can eventually cause blindness, although this can be treated. Other common eye problems in older people include glaucoma, where the pressure in the eyeball is too high, and diabetic eye disease, both of which can result in blindness.
Signs of Geriatric Vision Deterioration
There are a number of signs that can indicate sight problems in older people. An elderly person struggling with presbyopia might hold newspapers as far away as possible in order to focus. Alternatively, older people may lift reading material up close to their eyes, because deteriorating vision makes it tricky to read small print. Some eye conditions that affect older people can make it difficult for them to cope with changes in lighting levels; they may have problems seeing well at night, or coping with reflected glare. Sight difficulties can make people clumsy, and prone to wearing odd color combinations. Some elderly people may fail to recognize others and they could even become withdrawn, as vision loss can lead to depression.
Talking to Your Parents About Your Concerns
Your parents may not talk to you readily as there can be a reluctance to discuss sight difficulties in the elderly. This could be because they consider other health conditions more important, or they do not want to admit that their vision is failing. Choose a time to discuss your concerns when you will not be rushed and realize that you may have to talk to your parents about their health on more than one occasion. Listening is vital in order to understand your parent’s point of view, and you should remain respectful throughout your discussions. It may be helpful for your parents if you offer to book appointments for them and to accompany them when they visit the optometrist or eye doctor, but you should not force the issue.
Questions to ask the Optometrist
Before you arrive for your appointment, make sure any costs are known and find out how much, if any, is covered by insurance. Check what payment methods are available, and whether any eye drops will be used which might leave your parent unable to drive. It is important to find out if your parents’ sight problems are caused by simple aging and the need for new glasses, or an eye disorder. If your parent has an eye condition, you will need to ask for more details, including how advanced it is, what treatments are available and what kind of improvement can be expected following therapy. If improvement is not possible, what support is available to help your parent adjust to living with reduced vision? If further tests or treatment are required, you might also ask about costs and possible side-effects.
Available Vision Treatments
For a problem such as presbyopia, a suitable prescription for new glasses may be all that is needed to correct your parent’s vision. Although macular degeneration cannot be cured, some forms of the disease can be treated to prevent progression. Treatment may be carried out in the form of laser surgery, photodynamic therapy or drugs injected regularly into the eye. Laser surgery destroys abnormal blood vessels in the eye, while photodynamic therapy does the same thing using a drug at the back of the eye which is activated by light. Cataracts are surgically removed and replaced with artificial lenses. Glaucoma treatment can be carried out with eye drops and sometimes a laser procedure or other surgery may be required. Control of diabetic eye disease can be achieved by regulating blood sugar levels and, if not, laser or other surgery may be necessary. Perhaps the most important treatment is to provide support for people as they adjust to vision loss.