Keeping Senior Eyes Healthy

Senior Care

Vision changes are a normal part of growing older. Some vision changes are easily tackled with small interventions, like eye drops for mildly dry eyes or an increased glasses prescription for eyes that are a bit strained while reading. But there are other, more serious eye changes that can signify eye disease, and seniors and their loved ones should be mindful of any new eye symptoms they experience. 

In this post, we’re providing some key information about senior eye health, including preventative and proactive measures to keep eyes in good health, a list of some of the eye conditions that most commonly affect seniors, as well as some suggested aids and interventions for seniors who are dealing with low vision. 

Visit the optometrist regularly. Older adults over age 60 should have their eyes examined once per year to catch any vision problems that might be developing. The American Optometric Association notes that “[m]any eye diseases have no early symptoms,” which means that annual check-ups are essential for spotting diseases before they grow more advanced. 

Make sure dry or watery eyes are checked out. Dry eyes might be relieved by a humidifier, and watery eyes might be the result of sensitivity , but these issues can also indicate problems that need further treatment. 

Avoid eye strain. Seniors can make sure their eyes aren’t working harder than they have to by wearing glasses or contact lenses with up-to-date prescriptions, and by making sure the lightbulbs in their homes provide adequate wattage to help them see clearly – just make sure that higher wattage is supported by their light fixtures. 

Reduce sun exposure. We should all wear sunglasses that provide protection against both UVA and UVB wavelengths. For added protection, Johns Hopkins suggests wraparound sunglasses. 

Get adequate sleep.  As we sleep, our eyes clean out irritants that may have entered them during the day, like dust or smoke

Avoid smoking. Smoking negatively impacts eye health. 

  • Glaucoma. There are a few different forms of glaucoma . People over 60 are at increased risk of developing all forms, but the most common is primary open-angle glaucoma, which affects peripheral vision. Since it’s quite rare to experience symptoms in the early stages of glaucoma, it’s crucial that all people over 60 years of age have regular eye exams to check for signs of glaucoma. 

    Another form of glaucoma, acute angle-closure glaucoma, develops more rapidly and is accompanied by symptoms like blurred vision, seeing ‘halos’ or ‘lights,’ eye pain and/or redness, as well as nausea . If your senior loved one develops these symptoms, their eyes need to be examined immediately. 

    Glaucoma can be treated with medication to slow its progress, and sometimes with surgical intervention

  • Presbyopia. This is “the loss of the ability to see close objects or small print.” Symptoms include headaches and/or sore eyes, and a telltale sign is needing to hold items with small print at an arm’s length when attempting to read them. According to the Cleveland Clinic, reading glasses or bifocal lenses can tackle this problem. 

  • Cataracts. A cataract is a “cloudy or opaque area” on the eye. People over 55 are at risk of developing cataracts, and they usually affect both eyes.

    Symptoms of cataracts include difficulty seeing at night, blurred vision, increased eye sensitivity, and colours appearing less ‘intense.’ When cataracts disrupt vision, they can be removed surgically. Cataract surgery is common and safe

  • Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). This disease affects central vision, and is “the leading cause of vision loss in adults over age 50.” Symptoms include an ‘empty’ space in the center of the field of vision, the distortion of lines and shapes, and difficulty seeing objects and colours clearly. 

    The disease can present as ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ forms of degeneration. If caught early at an eye exam, the ‘wet’ degeneration can be treated with medication and injections, while ‘dry’ degeneration is both prevented and treated with adequate nutrient and vitamin intake . Seniors who have a family history of AMD should discuss preventative measures with their optometrist and/or ophthalmologist. 

  • Temporal arteritis. This involves the inflammation of the arteries in the temples and can lead to sudden, irreversible vision loss. It’s important to have any of the following symptoms of temporal arteritis addressed by a doctor immediately: tender temple area(s) and/or scalp, severe headache(s), pain while chewing, a chronic fever, and weakness in the hips or shoulders. 

Telescopic and Magnifying Lenses

Telescopic lenses can clip on to existing glasses, or they’re available as single-piece glasses. They can help those with low vision see more clearly. Magnifying lenses can also be mounted onto an existing pair of eyeglasses, and magnifiers are available in other formats as well, including portable handheld options and stationary, tabletop options . If you’re not sure what option(s) might be best for your senior loved one, you might wish to visit an optometrist or ophthalmologist who specializes in low vision for advice and recommendations.

Vitamins Minerals in a Healthy Diet

As mentioned above, getting enough vitamins and nutrients is a key way to prevent AMD. Health Canada suggests the following foods for a diet that’s mindful of eye health: spinach, kale, carrots, melons, and citrus fruits. Your loved one’s eye doctor may also recommend vitamins C and E or zinc

Technology tailored to senior eyes

When seeing our family members in person is difficult, many of us turn to technology, which can challenge our senior loved ones for many reasons – including the fact that they may struggle to see certain buttons or words on their screens. Showing your loved one how to enlarge text or video on their screen might help, but if that’s not quite enough, you might want to explore an option like the Grandpad , which has “large buttons and [an] intuitive interface.”

Adaptations to make hobbies easier

Screens aren’t the only objects that might cause seniors to strain their eyes. To avoid as much eye strain as possible, help your senior loved one find ways to enjoy their favourite hobbies and activities with items that won’t prompt them to squint, like books printed with larger fonts, puzzles with larger pieces (look for puzzles marketed for seniors to avoid childish designs), self-threading needles , or a Scrabble game with large-print tiles, for example.