By Jonathan M. Frantz, MD, FACS
One in six Americans over age 65 has a visual impairment that cannot be corrected with glasses or contact lenses. This is often caused by common eye conditions and diseases. Among older Americans, visual impairment is one of the most significant contributors to loss of independence. It is also associated with a higher prevalence of chronic health conditions, falls, injuries, depression and social isolation.
If you are a senior, here’s a list of seven tips to follow to help protect your vision:
1. Get an Eye Exam. If you are age 65 and over, you should get a medical eye exam every one to two years. Regular eye exams are crucial in detecting changes in your vision, which may be a symptom of a treatable eye disease or condition. In fact, the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Optometric Association recommend that all adults, even those without signs or risk factors for eye disease, get a baseline eye disease screening at age 40. The earlier eye disease is diagnosed, the better the chance your vision will stay healthy as you age.
2. Know the Symptoms of Vision Loss. Signs of vision loss may become apparent as reading, writing, shopping, watching television, driving a car and/or recognizing faces become more difficult. Vision loss that may be noticed by your friends and family include missing, bumping into or knocking over objects, stepping hesitantly, and squinting or tilting your head when trying to focus.
3. Make Eye-Healthy Food Choices. A diet low in fat and rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains benefits your entire body, including your eyes. Studies show that foods rich in vitamins C and E, zinc, lutein and zeaxanthin are good for eye health. These nutrients are linked to lower risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and dry eye later in life. Eye-healthy food choices include citrus fruits, vegetable oils, nuts, whole grains, dark green leafy vegetables and cold-water fish.
4. Quit Smoking. Avoiding smoking and second hand smoke – or quitting, for current smokers – are some of the best investments everyone can make for long-term eye health. Smoking increases the risk for eye diseases like cataract and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and raises the risks for cardiovascular diseases that indirectly influence eyes’ health. Tobacco smoke, including second-hand smoke, also worsens dry eye.
5. Maintain normal blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels. High blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose (sugar) levels all increase the risk of vision loss from an eye disease. Keeping these under control will not only help your eyes but also your overall health.
6. Get Regular Physical Activity. Not only does 30 minutes of exercise a day benefit your heart, waistline and energy level, it can also do your eyes a world of good! Many eye diseases are linked to other health problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol levels.
7. Wear Sunglasses. Exposure to ultra violet (UV) light raises the risks of eye diseases, including cataracts, growths on the eye and cancer. Always wear sunglasses with 100 percent UV protection, and a hat while enjoying time outdoors.
Jonathan M. Frantz, MD, FACS, medical director of Frantz EyeCare, is named in The Guide to America’s Top Ophthalmologists. He and his team of doctors at offer a broad spectrum of patient-focused comprehensive care from eye exams and eyewear to bladeless laser cataract removal, treatment of eye diseases, bladeless iLASIK laser vision correction, and eyelid surgery with office locations in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Punta Gorda, Lehigh Acres, and Naples.
To make an appointment, visit www.bettervision.net or call the main office of Frantz EyeCare at 239.418.0999.