Binetter Eye Centre

Common eye diseases that develop with age

Common eye diseases that develop with age

Common eye diseases that develop with age

We all know that we need to take better health as we get older, for most people this means keeping active, eating healthy and regular check-ups with your GP. But did you know that there are many issues that can develop with your eyes as you age?

Eye health is something that not many of us think of until it affects us and as we all know, prevention is better than a cure! So let’s talk about some common eye issues that can develop as you age, what can cause and prevent them and what you can do to treat them.

Cataracts

When most people think of eye diseases that affect older people, they will most likely think of cataracts. Cataracts are what occurs when your eye lens becomes more rigid and cloudy, which causes cloudy or blurred vision, poor night vision and dull vision.

What causes it?

Generally, cataracts develop as part of your body’s natural aging process, however some lifestyle choices like smoking and excessive UV exposure, and conditions like diabetes can increase your chances of cataracts developing. It can also be hereditary so be sure to check to see if you have a family history of cataracts requiring surgery under the age of 65.

How is it treated?

Cataracts can only be removed and fixed with surgery, where your eye surgeon will make a small incision in your eye, in order to remove the effect lese, and then replace with a small plastic lese.

Cataract surgery is one of the most commonly performed surgeries in Australia and recovery from cataract surgery typically occurs within days. Once a cataract is removed with surgery, it cannot redevelop.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is something that most people may have heard of but might not completely understand. Glaucoma is a condition that affects your eye’s optic nerve and can cause vision loss or even blindness.

What causes it?

Glaucoma is unfortunately a hereditary disease that develops with little warning, as most people who develop glaucoma have no early symptoms or pain. So it’s important to find out your family medical history to see if you might be susceptible, because if it is detected early, you can lessen the damage done to your eye/s.

Most optometrists test for glaucoma as part of a regular check-up, but if you have concerns or know you have a family history, make sure to speak with your optometrist or eye doctor.

How is it treated?

Glaucoma can be treated with eye drops, laser surgery, traditional surgery or a combination of these methods. Of course, early detection means that there is a greater chance that the treatment will be successful. Speak to your eye doctor or optometrist about what treatment would work best for you.

Presbyopia

As we get older, the lens in your eye becomes thicker and less flexible, which makes it harder for your eye to focus on close objects, this is called Presbyopia. It can often cause headaches, eye strain and visual fatigue that makes reading, computer work and other tasks where you need close vision very tiring and uncomfortable.

What causes it?

As mentioned, Presbyopia is another case of your body’s natural aging process which often affects almost 100% of people from age 40 and onwards and naturally worsens until around the age of 65. Unfortunately, as it is a natural part of aging, there is no way to avoid it and no preventative measures you can take.

How is it treated?

Most people treat Presbyopia simply by wearing glasses or contacts, but it can also be treated with surgery but it is best to speak with your eye surgeon or optometrist to see what treatment would work for you.

Macular degeneration

Macular Degeneration, or MD, can drastically diminish your eyesight as it affects your central vision. While sufferers of MD do not go completely blind, it severely affects their ability to read, drive or perform other daily functions.

What causes it?

There are actually two types of MD, wet MD and Dry MD.

Dry MD is the most common and 85-90% of Macular Degeneration cases are Dry MD. The deterioration of eyesight is linked to bits of fat and protein called drusen (“waste” from your retina function) that can collect under your retina. Small amounts of this resin waste are normally harmless, but if they collect in your macular then they can cause major damage.

Dry AMD has three stages (early, intermediate, or advanced) but sufferers do not often notice symptoms until their Macular Degeneration gets to the intermediate or advanced stage as there is no vision loss or pain symptoms in the early stages. In advanced Dry MD, in addition to the drusen, there is a breakdown of light-sensitive cells and the supporting tissues in the central retinal area, which can cause a blurred spot in the centre of your vision which may get bigger and darker over time. Dry MD may affect one of your eyes or it can affect both, but often if only one eye is affected, symptoms are not always noticed because the unaffected eye has no visual symptoms.

Wet Macular Degeneration occurs when extra blood vessels start to form underneath the macula in your eye, which can leak blood and other fluid into your eye causing the damage.

It generally starts to affect people over the age of 50 and factors like smoking, high-blood pressure, UV exposure, diabetes, obesity and high-fat diets and alcohol are all thought to increase your risk of developing the disease.

How is it treated?

There is no complete cure for Wet MD, but there are ways to prolong your vision for as long as possible, including drug treatments like Anti VEG-F drugs such as Lucentis, Eylea, and Avastin used to assist in the prevention of formation of these new blood vessels.

Unfortunately, there is no known cure or viable treatments for Dry MD, but the advancement of the disease is much slower and most patients with this condition are able to live relatively normal, productive lives. It often affects one eye more than the other so total vision loss with Dry MD isn’t common.

As with all age-related eye diseases, it is best to catch them early so as to have the best chance for treatment, so be sure to have regular appointments with your optometrist and speak to them about any concerns you may have or if you notice a change in your vision.

Dry eyes

Dry eyes is exactly like it sounds, with symptoms ranging from stinging or burning sensations, itchiness of the eye, occasional blurred vision, redness of the eye, gritty feeling eyes and your eye generally just feeling tired. It can affect people of all ages but is especially common in older people.

What causes it?

For age related dry eyes, it is simply another symptom of our bodies getting older, as tear-production slows down as our bodies age. There are also some contributing factors that can exacerbate the condition including smoking, menopause, some medications, trauma to the eye, excessive screen time, allergies and it can also affect some patients after certain forms of laser eye surgery.

How is it treated?

There is no cure for dry eye, but it can be easily managed with medicated eye-drops, gels or ointments to lubricate the surface of the eye. It is important not to ignore the symptoms though, as complications from unrelated dry eyes can cause damage to the surface of your eyes (corneas) which can lead to permanent scarring.

If you are concerned that you are suffering from dry eyes, make an appointment to see your optometrist or eye surgeon to see what treatment they would recommend.

Unfortunately, as we get older, there is a greater chance for us to have issues with our vision, but that doesn’t mean you have to live with poor vision in your twilight years! Make sure to have a chat with one of our friendly team to see what steps you can take to make sure you enjoy clear vision for life!

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This article is not a substitute for a consultation with your surgeon. Before choosing to proceed with laser eye surgery your surgeon will have a detailed discussion with you about the right procedure and about the potential complications.