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A blurry vision – Part 2

By Carl R. Johnson

In last month’s column I shared the story about my discovery of the inevitable results of aging, “diminished vision” and why we need to be faithful to regular eye exams. I wrote about a recent eye exam that revealed I had a macular hole. Surgery was needed to repair the damage.

By now, I’ve had the surgery, and although I’m not a very good patient, it appears that the surgery was a success. And for that I am most thankful.

As a result of this recent experience, I thought it would be helpful to focus this month’s column on identifying the “normal” changes that we can all expect in the aging eye, and share some tips for keeping our eyes healthy.

Essentially, there are three changes that every person will eventually experience in their vision as they grow older.  The first, and most common age-related vision change, is losing focus.  In fact, almost everyone between the ages of 40 and 50 will begin to experience this change.  What happens is that the lens begins to lose elasticity, making it harder to focus up close for such activities as reading.  Fortunately, it’s a change that can be easily corrected with reading glasses, or glasses with corrected lenses.

Another normal change is declining sensitivity.  What happens is that the lens of the eye becomes increasingly dense and more yellow with age, which in turn affects color perception and contrast sensitivity. When this happens it may become difficult to tell where an object ends and its background begins, making it difficult to see curbs or steps, for example.

Finally, as the eye ages, and the pupil gets smaller, we need more light to see well.  Without sufficient light, our eyes will experience the result of strain, which inevitably contributes to a blurry vision.  In addition, we’ll also discover that we need more time to adjust to changing levels of illumination (i.e. going from daylight into a dark environment like a theater or restaurant.)

OK. Those are a few of the changes we can all expect as we age. But what can we do to keep our eyes healthy, even as we experience these normal changes?

In preparation for this article I discovered the following general guidelines for protecting vision:

1. Schedule routine eye examinations.  It’s possible to have a serious vision problem and not even know it.  Early diagnosis may save your sight; visit your eyecare professional at least once a year.

2. Monitor your blood pressure and exercise regularly.  Cardiovascular stress, such as high blood pressure, can damage parts of the visual system and lead to vision loss.

3. Guard your eyes from the sun.  Prolonged exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays has been linked to cataracts and macular degeneration. Wear sunglasses with 100% UV-A and UV-B protection, as well as a wide-brimmed hat.

4. Protect your eyes.  Wear protective goggles when working with tools, or playing contact sports.

5. Don’t smoke!  Cigarette smoking has been linked to a number of eye conditions, including cataracts and macular degeneration.

For more information, check out www.lighthouse.org/eye-health/  .

As we grow older we have to be deliberate and conscientious in our health care decisions, especially if we want to live a productive and well-balanced life.

Carl R. Johnson is the Community Relations Director for Kitsap Alliance of Resources for Elders

 

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