Most of us find our eyesight getting worse as we age. Beyond just tired old eyes there may be other problems to consider. This guide to failing eyesight and macular degeneration in the elderly should help on what to look out for, excuse the pun, and solutions to consider.
Free eyetests over 60
Everyone over 60 in the UK is entitled to a free eye test at any optician’s every two years. It is not just important to test whether or not your eyesight has got worse and whether you need new glasses or stronger lens. It is also a good health check because other problems with eyes can be identified, such as:
- Age-related macular degeneration
- Eye infections
Most people find that their eyesight gets worse as they age and need glasses or contact lenses for reading or close work which means they are long-sighted. Alternatively they may need glasses for long distance (driving, watching TV, etc. because they are short-sighted. When the time comes that glasses are needed for most activities opticians may recommend bifocals or varifocals which are for both long and short-sighted vision.
Are glasses free for the elderly?
Glasses are not free for everyone but if you are on benefits you could be entitled to optical vouchers to put towards the cost of glasses or for the full amount. To check for eligibility go to this website to access an HC1, HC2, or HC3 form: https://www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/nhs-low-income-scheme or call 0300 330 1343 to ask for a form to be sent.
There are no symptoms for glaucoma, but it is a serious eye problem that if unidentified can cause loss of sight. Glaucoma is when the pressure of the fluid in the eye damages the optic nerve. It is easily identified with a simple test which is carried out routinely when eyesight is tested. Regular use of eye drops keeps glaucoma under control.
To find out more about glaucoma go to The Royal National Institute for the Blind’s website: http://www.rnib.org.uk/eye-health-eye-conditions-z-eye-conditions/glaucoma
Cataracts are quite common in the elderly. The lens of the eye becomes cloudy and misty and interferes with sight. The problem becomes obvious because of impaired eyesight and in fact it’s possible to see cataracts in someone’s eyes because of the cloudy look. Other symptoms:
- Difficulty seeing when lights are dimmed.
- Bright and glaring lights are uncomfortable to eyes.
- Colours look different and faded.
While it’s possible to live with cataracts for a while eventually they require an operation to replace the lens of the eye with artificial lens. This involves getting a referral from the GP. Find out more at the NHS website: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cataracts/#when-to-seek-medical-advice
Anyone with untreated cataracts needs to check whether or not they should be driving, or else they could be liable for a fine or further problems in an accident. Check this out at the DVLA: https://www.gov.uk/cataracts-and-driving.
To get more information about cataracts go to: http://www.rnib.org.uk/eye-health-eye-conditions-z-eye-conditions/cataracts
Age-related macular degeneration
Failing eyesight is quite common as people get older, but age-related macular degeneration is a condition where eyesight becomes blurry. Usual symptoms are that it’s difficult to read, recognise people’s faces and colours seem less vibrant, even when wearing glasses.
The macula is a tiny part of the retina at the back of the eye. Only a trained optometrist (at the optician’s) can diagnose AMDR so it is important to have regular eye test. If wet or dry AMDR is identified by the optometris there will be a referral to an ophthalmologist or eye doctor for more detailed diagnosis and treatment if appropriate.
For more information go to the RNIB (Royal National Institute for the Blind’s website) https://www.rnib.org.uk/eye-health-eye-conditions-age-related-macular-degeneration-amd/nutritional-supplements-age-related
Failing eyesight? Eat well for healthy eyes
Following a healthy diet has benefits for the whole body but especially the eyes, and some vitamins and minerals are believed to maintain health. Antioxidants are said to be good for the eyes and as these are abundant in fruit and vegetables it is advisable to eat at least five portions a day as the government recommends.