Age has its benefits – like the wisdom your life experiences have given you – but it is also accompanied by certain health problems. The body’s functions tend to slow as we age. Our immune systems, our metabolism, and our eyes are just a few examples. More specifically, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and cataracts are three of the most common age related eye diseases. Over the years, medical experts have developed treatments that can help us cope with or treat eye diseases.
Glaucoma does damage to the optic nerve, eventually causing partial vision loss or blindness. When someone suffers from glaucoma, the drainage tubes that normally keep the pressure in the eye at an optimal level become blocked, allowing more abnormal amounts of fluid to accumulate inside the eye, which causes damage. The damage begins before any symptoms appear. As it progresses, the patient may begin to notice that their vision is beginning to fail.
Up to 1 million people are in the beginning stages of glaucoma and do not know it. It is among the leading causes of blindness in the U.S. The risk factors of glaucoma include:
- The use of steroid medications
- A family history of glaucoma
Treatment for glaucoma includes eye drops or oral medication to regulate the fluid in the eye. In some cases, a trabeculectomy can be performed to create a new drainage tube under the eyelid to allow extra fluid to drain, thereby reducing pressure and stopping further damage to the optic nerve. Catching glaucoma in its early stages is key to protecting your vision.
The macula is part of the retina in the back of the eye. Degeneration of the macula can be caused by the accumulation of extra blood vessels next to the macula, which eventually leak over time. This leakage damages the macula, and is often called “wet” macular degeneration. The effects of wet macular degeneration can be stopped with the use of prescription drugs that destroy the excess blood vessels and prevent fluid leakage.
“Dry” macular degeneration is another form of macular degeneration in which macular cells are gradually lost due to age. Unfortunately, dry macular degeneration is virtually untreatable.
The symptoms of macular degeneration include blurry or spotted vision. The most common symptom is the loss of central vision.
Cataracts are another common age related eye disease. The hard lens in our eyes is made of water and protein. The protein can clump from age, exposure to radiation, diabetes, steroid use and trauma. The clumps of protein cause cloudiness and blurry vision.
Cataracts are one of the easier age related eye problems to treat. Brighter lighting, new glasses, or anti-glare sunglasses are suitable for treating minor cataract issues. More severe cases can be treated using lens-replacement surgery, which restores vision completely.