Eye problems, including some vision loss, often occur as we age. In fact, 3.3 million Americans older than 40 are blind, or have low vision. According to the National Eye Institute, that number could climb to 5.5 million by 2020. But many people, both young and old, are experiencing problems that are preventable if caught early. Here are some common eye ailments, and how to detect them:
- Macular Degeneration. This condition, which destroys central vision, happens most frequently to people who are older than 60, have high blood pressure, smoke, are obese or have a family history. Its symptoms are painless, but it is indicated when straight lines appear wavy, central vision is blurred central, or you have trouble seeing things in the distance and problems seeing colors correctly.
- Cataracts. This condition means that the eye’s lens has become cloudy. It can be brought on by overexposure to sunlight, smoking and alcohol abuse, and it’s more common in people with diabetes. Symptoms include blurred or cloudy vision, faded colors, increased glare from headlights, lamps or sunlight, and double vision in a single eye.
- Glaucoma. This is a series of eye diseases that cause fluid pressure inside the eye to build, and often symptoms don’t appear until the optic nerve has been damaged. It occurs most often in people older than 60, (over 40 for African-Americans, a particularly high-risk group), after a severe eye injury, to those with diabetes and also people with a family history. Symptoms include blurry vision, narrowed peripheral vision, problems focusing and a “halo” effect around lights.
The good news is that there are treatments and surgeries for these conditions, and all of them are checked for during a routine eye exam. It’s a good idea to have your eyes checked annually, especially if you have a family history of any of these conditions or otherwise might be at risk. Early detection is the best way to make sure your eyes keep seeing clearly for years to come.
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