eyesight problems in the elderly

Seeing Double or Dim? Common eyesight problems in the elderly explained

Eye problems among the elderly have been a growing concern. Older adults often have issues with their eyes after their 40s and 50s. Do you see Double or Dim? It’s a common age-related problem seen in the elderly at some point in time. Identifying the true cause and leading a comprehensive eye exam are crucial.

Eyesight problems in the elderly need a comprehensive diagnosis and treatment procedure to restore vision. You can experience diplopia, double vision, and more eye injuries or conditions for this reason. By taking healthy food and vitamins and getting regular checkups, the elderly can also have better eyesight late in their lives, without actual eye complications. Let’s get aware of how aging can increase the risk of vision issues.

1. Tearing (Epiphora)

Elderly people have an increased risk of getting infected with watery eyes. This condition, also known as epiphora, is also quite common in children. Tears are responsible for lubrication in our eyes; in conditions where the tear drainage system in the eyes is disturbed, that’s when excessive tearing is seen in your eyes. Certain additional symptoms can cause excessive tearing in the elderly, including itching, red eyes, eye pain, cloudy or unclear vision, and sinus headaches, depending on the severity of the case.

Tears could be a warning sign of a serious eye infection or a blockage in your tear ducts in elderly people older than 50. So, what are the causes of excessive tearing in older adults? by allergies and blepharitis?

  • Allergies
  • Blepharitis
  • Blocked tear ducts (nasolacrimal duct obstruction)
  • Styes
  • Chalazion
  • Entropion

An entropion condition in which the eyelid is turned inward (inverted). Under this condition, elderly people can experience that their eyelashes rub against the eyeball and a sense of irritation. X-rays and CT scan imaging tests are diagnostic tests that help you determine the underlying cause of epiphora.

2. Dry Eyes (Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca)

Dry eye symptoms, also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), cause gritty, irritated, and blurry eyes. This happens when your eyes do not produce sufficient tears to lubricate them. Age, medications (like antihistamines and antidepressants), and medical conditions (Sjögren’s syndrome).

The dryness of the eyes can get severe if not treated, leading to loss of vision or intervention, starting with the inflammation of the conjunctiva. Dry eyes, due to disruption of the tear film, need to seek ophthalmologic care to see the extent of inflammation of the ocular surface and lacrimal glands.

Medicines like diuretics, anticholinergics, antidepressants, beta-blockers, and decongestants are used for treatment. The enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) confirms dry eye syndrome results, decreasing lactoferrin and epidermal growth factor.

Do you know? Schirmer’s test is used to determine whether the eye produces enough tears to keep it moist. This test also diagnoses a chronic (long-lasting) autoimmune disorder, that attacks glands and decreases moisture levels in the eyes, mouth, and other body parts. The symptoms of dry eyes are as follows,

  • Glare and halos in the eyes
  • Lack of color vision
  • Poor night vision and refractive errors
  • Distorted vision in one or both eyes

3. Cataracts

Cataracts develop in older adults above 40 and chances of vision impairment can be seen at the age of 60. Blurry vision, dim vision, and often irritation in the eyes are seen. There are 3 primary types of cataracts seen in adults, with nuclear sclerotic, cortical, and posterior subcapsular symptoms.

There are several stages of cataracts, early, immature, mature, and hypermature cataracts, one of the leading causes of blindness in the elderly population. It results in protein clouds in the lens of the eyes, making it opaque.

Cataracts can be treated through eye surgery, in which people often find little or no pain. Patients may feel gritty or slightly tender before surgery. Cataracts target the older generation age group and are less seen in young adults.

How do I diagnose and grade cataracts?

Cataracts in some conditions may develop into eye trauma and intraocular inflammation and can get chronic. Hence, early detection of cataracts with a comprehensive eye examination is crucial for such eyesight problems in the elderly.

Cataracts need effective treatment, which can also include corticosteroids and phenothiazines. Hereditary Mendelian cataracts are the most frequently inherited form of cataracts. This cataract can have autosomal recessive or X-linked inheritance, which can be treated successfully with surgery.

Cataract surgery poses a risk, but it requires surgical procedures to recover from eye lens damage. Only one grade of cataract can be seen at a time. It can be treated through cataract surgery, like

  • Phacoemulsification
  • Femtosecond laser-assisted cataract surgery (FLACS)
  • Extracapsular cataract extraction (ECCE)

4. Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases seen in the elderly population that result in vision loss and blindness. It’s often called the “silent thief of sight” because, except for acute closed- or narrow-angle glaucoma, no early-stage symptoms of optic nerve damage are seen.

No cure for glaucoma exists but early treatment does help prevent vision loss. The risk factors are age and family history of glaucoma, which results in vision loss (peripheral, central, and tunnel vision), corneal changes (whitening, haziness), and blind spots in the eyes.

In glaucoma, the rate of aqueous fluid production and drainage is uncontrolled, leading to excessive eye pressure. Health experts recommend preventing excessive intake of added sugars and refined carbohydrates to prevent glaucoma progression.

5. Retinal Detachment

Retinal detachment describes an emergency with a spike in high blood sugar levels of people with diabetes. The thin layer of tissue (the retina) pulls away from the back of the eye. Hence, rhegmatogenous, tractional, and exudative three types of retinal detachment can be seen as a cause of aging or eye injury.

Retinal tears and detachment can be fatal, with a high risk of increasing blindness in elderly people. If left untreated, it results in permanent vision loss. Since older adults are becoming aware of this, retinal detachment treatment is now at a high success rate, with 90% of the cases being successfully attached.

How can I make my retina stronger?

The mechanism of the retina allows it to regain its strength, unlike muscle, but gradually, with comprehensive care of retinal issues. Incorporating a healthy diet, some nutritional supplements, and vitamins A, C, E, and B (e.g., thiamine, niacin, and riboflavin) can enhance your overall retinal strength.

Omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, lutein, and zeaxanthin are also seen to strengthen eye health. To be noted, early treatment of a retinal tear and other eyesight problems in the elderly can prevent severe vision loss.

6. Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

AMD (age-related macular degeneration) is a serious eye disease that often progresses with age. It affects central vision and is a leading cause of blindness in older adults. People over 50, a family history of AMD, genetics, smoking, obesity, and cardiovascular disease are quite common risk factors. And even lighter eye colors are more susceptible to AMD.

There are two main types: dry AMD (more common) and wet AMD (less common but more severe). If you experience sudden blurry vision, trouble reading, or difficulty recognizing faces, this could potentially incline towards AMD.

7. Corneal Disease

In elderly people, a group of genetic disorders can cause issues with corneal disease, which is often associated with the abnormal deposits of protein and other materials layering your cornea. These corneal dystrophies are reported to be progressive to some extent, and a worse symptom may show in the elderly, affecting their vision.

Symptoms attached to corneal disease are common in other eye conditions. These involve sensitivity to light, blurry vision, seeing halos, dry eyes, and feeling there is something in the eyes.

Cornea disease progresses to some form, like ocular surface disease. The treatment of corneal dystrophy includes glasses, custom contact lenses, over-the-counter eye drops, and specially formulated medications.

Some of the anti-pseudomonas antibiotic medications involved in the treatment of corneal disease are piperacillin (7 mg/mL), ceftazidime (50 mg/mL), cefoperazone and imipenem.
Besides, corneal transplantation and in-office laser surgery can be conducted to treat the corneal condition.

Most cornea transplants are successful for corneal disease. This transplanted cornea can stay healthy for at least 10 years. However, if left untreated, corneal disease or injuries can often lead to profound corneal blindness in any age group.

8. Temporal Arteritis

In the elderly population, the risk of developing temporal arteritis is high. The condition arises when tiny pipes (arteries) carrying blood to your head and muscles get inflamed and swollen. This can happen in your temple area and other parts of your body.

Bad headaches on the sides of your head, tenderness in your temple, and sudden vision loss are more common in older women. If you experience recurring chronic fever and weakness in your shoulder or hips with the aforementioned symptoms, see a doctor right away.

9. Eyesight Problems in the Elderly (Eyelid)

As we age, our eyes and eyelids undergo certain changes. Let’s briefly discuss eyelid problems in elderly people. Swollen or puffy eyelids can result from allergies, infection (like stye), or fluid retention.

Itchy, sticky, or flaky eyes could be signs and symptoms of blepharitis and allergies. The risk of developing lumps around the eyelids (painful and painless, both). The droopy upper eyelids (ptosis) can also arise due to aging, muscle weakness, and even vision problems.

The weakening of the eyelid, lower eyelid outward (ectropion), eyelid rolling inward (entropion), yellow plaques on the eyelid, and fatty deposits (xanthelasma) near the inner cornea of the eyelids.

Low Vision Aids for Common Eyesight Problems in the Elderly

Many helpful tools have been identified for the help of elderly people. Let’s see what eye-vision aids can improve daily life for individuals with low vision.

1. Magnifying Devices

For those with vision impairments, handheld magnifiers, stand magnifiers, head-mounted magnifiers, and video magnifiers. These devices can enhance vision by magnifying texts, images, and objects.

2. Telescopic glasses for distance viewing

Telescopic glasses are binocular-like glasses that magnify distant objects. This can help with watching TV, recognizing street signs, and making faces for elderly people.

3. Light-filtering lenses to improve contrast

Lighting filtering lenses and contrast aids are focused on improving during tasks. Even colored filters can enhance contrast and help the elderly with macular degeneration improve their ability to distinguish objects and texts.

Conclusion

As we age, clouding of the lens, damage to the optic nerve, deterioration of central vision, and even discomfort in the eyes due to reduced tear production are seen. Hence, cataracts, glaucoma, presbyopia, and some major changes in the eye are a few of the common eyesight problems in the elderly that are often treatable with proper care.

Remember, early detection is key! Don’t wait for symptoms to progress. Schedule regular eye exams with an eye care specialist, especially if you’re in your 40s or 50s.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *