Eye Health for Young and Old

Vision problems know no age limit

Starting to squint at street signs? Getting headaches with close work?

The slow loss of the ability to see close objects, called Presbyopia, is a normal part of aging. But advancing age can also bring more serious changes, and older adults should have their vision checked more frequently.


Regular Eye Exams Prevent Vision Loss

“For persons 40 and older, I recommend an eye exam every 3-4 years,” says Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital ophthalmologist Dr. Bradley Ruff. “By the time a person is in his or her 50s, they should have an exam every two years, and when they’re in their 60s, they should be coming in every year.”

Common eye problems like Presbyopia, tearing, or “floaters” (tiny specks that float across the eyes) are usually treatable and don’t threaten eyesight. But other problems, such as cataracts, glaucoma, or retinal disorders can lead to blindness—and yet a person will experience few or no symptoms. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a retinal disorder that’s a leading cause of blindness in the United States.


Children at Risk

While we sometimes associate poor vision with old age, even very small children can experience changes that lead to vision loss if untreated. Children are especially vulnerable because they may not be aware of an eye problem.

In fact, a new law became effective on January 1, 2008 requiring comprehensive eye exams for children entering kindergarten enrolling for the first time in any Illinois school. The eye exam must be performed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist within one year and submitted by October 15 of each school year.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, over 12 million children suffer from visual impairment, including one in 20 preschoolers and one in four school-age children. The Academy recommends the following schedule for determining when to screen children:

  • Newborn to 3 months
  • 6 months to 1 year
  • 3 years (approximately)
  • 5 years (approximately)

Also, keep in mind that some factors warrant more frequent testing in children. Developmental delays, premature birth, family history of eye disease, medications, African-American heritage and previous eye injuries can put your child at higher risk.


Easy Eye Care

“There are a lot of things that people can do to keep their eyes healthy,” says Dr. Ruff. “Having their eyes examined on a regular basis, buying a good pair of sunglasses, living a heart healthy lifestyle, exercising, not smoking, and eating heart healthy foods all contribute to healthy eyes.”

In addition, the organization Prevent Blindness: America’s Vision Learning Center recommends investigating any changes in the appearance of your eyes or vision. These changes include:

  • Unusual trouble adjusting to dark rooms
  • Difficulty focusing on near or distant objects
  • Squinting or blinking due to unusual sensitivity to light or glare
  • A change in color of the iris
  • Red-rimmed, encrusted or swollen lids
  • Recurrent pain in or around the eyes
  • Double vision
  • Lines and edges that appear distorted or wavy
  • Excess tearing or watery eyes
  • Dry eyes with itching or burning

See your eye health professional right away if you experience one of these problems. And just as you remember to brush and floss your teeth every day, schedule regular visits to your eye care professional. Early detection is your best defense against age-related or other vision problems.

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