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Eye Health as You Age

You shouldn’t ignore your eyes, particularly as you get older.

We often take our eyesight for granted, particularly as we get older.

There are varying estimates of vision impairment among older populations. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Health Survey indicates a rate of vision impairment for persons age 65 to 74 is somewhere between 10 and 20 percent.

The CDC reports that more than 3.3 million Americans 40 years and older are either legally blind or have poor vision. The leading causes of blindness and low vision are typically age-related eye diseases such as macular degeneration, cataract, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma, among others.

The aged are often the least likely to have vision care or insurance to pay for it. By one estimate persons aged 50 to 59 years were least likely to have eye-care insurance. The percentage of persons who had not had a dilated eye examination or a visit to an eye-care professional in the preceding 12 months decreased as people get older.

Costs in the Trillions

The cost of vision impairment is significant. At the 2012 World Ophthalmology Congress it was reported that global costs related to visual impairment were more than $2.95 trillion in 2010, with North America accounting for $692 billion and Western Europe accounting for $576 billion. The congress projected that the overall figure will balloon to nearly $3.53 trillion by 2020.

But the price of age-related vision problems goes far beyond eye issues alone.

Recent research highlights that vision impairment in later life can have profound consequences for the physical functioning, psychological well being, and health service needs of older adults.

Steps To Take

Maintaining your eye health is a multi-step process. It starts long before you reach middle or senior age. Here are a few tips:

See your eye doctor regularly

As the Ocular Nutrition Society survey found many people fail to visit their eye care specialist regularly. That’s a bad habit that most likely started long before senior citizenship arrived. So the first step to take in maintaining and/or improving one’s eye health is to have regular exams and checkups by a qualified eye care pro.

What is a comprehensive eye examination? A qualified and quality eye care professional should perform most if not all of the following: take a complete patient history – not only of your eye health, but your overall health as well; test each eye (the old eye chart) for visual acuity; give you several additional tests such as depth perception, color vision capability, eye muscle movement, side vision tests, and your eye’s responsiveness to light. Additional tests will measure the curvature of your cornea; your refraction (are you nearsighted, farsighted, or have an astigmatism); how well your eyes focus and work together; and more.

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