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Safeguarding your vision beyond age 60 doesn't have to be a complicated issue. Mostly you will need to be aware of symptoms and warning signs indicating age-related vision problems that could cause vision loss. Regular eye examinations and your vigilance can significantly improve your chances of maintaining good and healthy adult vision while you age.

Age-Related Eye and Vision Problems

There is the possibility, after turning 60 that a number of eye diseases can develop to affect your vision permanently. You should be aware of the following age-related disorders:

  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye disorder affecting the macula, the center of the retina at the back of the eye, causing loss of central vision. This part of the retina allows us to see fine detail and colors. Reading, watching TV, driving and recognizing faces require good central vision provided by the macula.
  • Retinal detachment tears or separates the retina from underlying tissue and can be caused by head or eye trauma, advanced diabetes and inflammatory eye disorders. It mostly occurs from changes to the vitreous fluid filling the back of the eye and if not treated swiftly can result in permanent loss of vision.
  • Diabetic retinopathy is caused directly by diabetes and comes about through progressive damage to the tiny blood vessels nourishing the retina. These vessels begin to leak blood and other fluids and cause the retina to swell and cloud vision. Usually both eyes are affected and the longer diabetes continues the greater is the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy and possible blindness.
  • Glaucoma results from damage to the optic nerve and produces vision loss. Patients who have a family history of glaucoma, older adults and African Americans are at greater risk for developing the disease.
  • Cataracts are fuzzy, cloudy areas that coat the normally clear lens of the eye. Their size and location suggest how they will affect good vision. They tend to develop in both eyes although one may be worse than the other. Dulling of colors, sensitivity to contrasts and heightened sensitivity to glare are symptoms.
  • Dry eye comes about when tear production begins to diminish and the eye suffers from insufficient lubrication. This condition is usually a chronic problem, particularly in older adults.

Driving after 60

You may begin to experience difficulty driving a car after 60. During this time, vision changes and potential eye conditions can affect driving ability. Some age-related vision changes that commonly affect older adults are:

  • Struggling with near vision when viewing the instrument panel or road maps.
  • Difficulty seeing in twilight or nocturnal conditions.
  • Loss of side vision.
  • Difficulty reading road signs.
  • Color perception changes.
  • Unable to adapt to headlight glare.

Tips for Safe Driving

  • Reduce your usual speed and stick mostly to daytime driving. This will minimize risk and avoid potentially dangerous situations caused by the glare from oncoming traffic.
  • Be extra watchful and cautious at intersections. It's a known fact that many collisions involving older drivers occur at intersections. Look carefully in both directions when approaching an intersection and turn your head frequently to compensate for possible diminished side vision.
  • Take a seniors' driving course. This type of course will introduce you to the pitfalls seniors can expect when driving. It will also show you how to compensate for physical changes in your vision while driving.
  • Don't wear eyeglasses or sunglasses with wide or wraparound frames as these can affect your side vision.
  • Have a yearly comprehensive eye examination to ensure your prescription and eye health are stable.

Some of us will experience unduly bad sight after age 60 but it is important to understand that visual ability alone is not a criterion for the degree of visual difficulty a person may have. Those with reasonable 20/40 vision can have difficulty functioning, while others with bad 20/100 vision may not be suffering any great difficulty at all.

But there are low vision rehabilitative services that can provide people with the aid and resources needed to regain their independence. Your optometrist can assist in planning a rehabilitation program to enable you to live and work more effectively, safely and efficiently. Some of the devices used are:

  • Spectacle-mounted magnifiers - This consists of a magnifying lens mounted in a spectacle or on a headband and frees both hands to perform a near-vision task, such as craft work or letter writing.
  • Hand-held and stand magnifiers - These are convenient for reading small print and doing fine close work. They can also be fitted with lights for additional comfort and effectiveness.
  • Hand-held or spectacle-mounted telescopes - These are miniature telescopes used for seeing long distances, such as watching TV.
  • Video magnification - Table top (closed-circuit television) or head-mounted devices enlarge reading text on a video display. These are portable systems that can be used with a computer or monitor. Brightness, size, contrast and color can be adjusted to suit personal needs.There are many other products to assist vision-handicapped patients, such as large-type books, magazines, self-threading needles, newspapers and many more. Your optometrist can suggest the various options available to you.
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