Eye care health tips for the over 50's

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Published: 03rd October 2011
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Declining health is an obvious problem of ageing adults and the incidence of diseases increases with age. Eye diseases are one of the most common problems in the 50 and above age group. Although these occur naturally over time, there are ways to prevent the progression of some of these conditions.
Blurred vision is the most common eye problem and can be caused by cataract, glaucoma, and age related macular degeneration. Cataract is blurry or hazy vision caused by clouding in the crystalline lens of the eye. At around 40 years of age, the lenses of the eyes become less and less flexible. The protein that makes up most of the lens clump together and cause haziness over a small area of the lens. Over time, this spreads to more areas of the lens, making it even more difficult to see. Cataracts are a normal part of ageing and there are no really proven ways to stop them from developing. However, the progression of cataracts can be slowed down by protecting the eyes from ultraviolet rays. Staying out of the hot sun or wearing UV protection glasses can help protect the eyes. Other helpful ways are eating a healthy diet and avoiding cigarette smoking.
Another cause of blurred vision is glaucoma. This is caused by damage to the optic nerve, which is mainly responsible for sending vision signals to the brain. Usually, the cause of the damage is increased eye pressure. Other times, it is said to be due to poor blood flow to the optic nerve. Keeping weight within the ideal range and controlling blood pressure seems to help prevent glaucoma. Hypertension and obesity leads to insulin resistance which in turn is linked to increase in eye pressure. Getting regular comprehensive eye examinations can help discover glaucoma early on before irreversible eye damage occurs.
Age related macular degeneration is another cause of blurry vision. This can affect one or both eyes and characterized by a gradual decrease in overall vision, difficulty recognizing faces, changes in central vision, distorted vision, and impaired ability to see fine detail and colors. It has been found that a diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of macular degeneration. Likewise, maintaining a healthy weight and keeping away from cigarette smoking may help in avoiding the disease. Routine eye exams can identify macular degeneration to prevent its progression.
Having dry eyes is another problem in older people, especially women. The most common cause is degenerative changes in the tear gland leading to partial or complete deficiency of tears. Other causes are extremely dry or polluted environments and eye infection. Dry eyes can manifest with itching, burning, or stinging and a feeling of dirt in the eyes. Prevent dry eyes by using artificial tear solutions, eye drops, or ointments. For people with chronic dry eyes, keep the eyes lubricated at all times, even when the eyes do not feel dry at all. Take breaks during long periods of reading or when doing lengthy tasks. Blink repeatedly to help spread tears evenly. Closing the eyes even for a few minutes will help rest the eyes and prevent dryness. Smoking can worsen dry eyes symptoms so stay away from cigarettes or from people who smoke.
Excessive tearing, on the other hand, can also become a problem. Most commonly, this is due to environmental irritants. Always protect the eyes from strong wind, blowing dust, smog, and strong light. For people with allergy to dander and dust, over the counter antihistamines help prevent allergies and excessive eye tearing.
People over 50 should be extra careful and should consult an eye doctor immediately if blurred vision is not improved even with corrective eyeglasses. Also see a doctor in case acute eye pain or persistent pain is felt. Other conditions that one should look out for are halos or rainbows around lights, burning sensation in the eyes, large amounts of floaters in the visual field, partial loss of visual field, black spots in the visual field, abnormal growth around the eyes, and persistent eye discharge.
Keep the eyes healthy by maintaining personal hygiene, keeping the eyes adequately rested, eating lots of fruits and vegetables, taking antioxidants, taking vitamin supplements especially vitamin A, avoiding smoking, using ample lighting around the home, and refraining from reading in a moving vehicle.
These simple steps to ensure proper eye care health are important to prevent eye diseases. See a doctor not only when one needs eye treatment or eye lens surgery but also for regular evaluation and yearly checkups.

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