See­ing clearly:

Pro­fes­sor Phelps on eye health

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - NEWS -

Los­ing your vi­sion as you get older is not in­evitable. Any sud­den loss of vi­sion is a med­i­cal emer­gency and needs to be in­ves­ti­gated ur­gently, but there are many other, more sub­tle forms of grad­ual vi­sion loss that de­serve your at­ten­tion.

A sure sign of get­ting older is that you wish your arms were longer so you could fo­cus on the fine print. This con­di­tion, called pres­by­opia, is caused by loss of flex­i­bil­ity of the lens in your eye, af­fect­ing your abil­ity to fo­cus on ob­jects close to you. The usual way of deal­ing with this is to wear pre­scrip­tion glasses for reading and close work, but there are some sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dures, such as re­place­ment of the lens with an ar­ti­fi­cial mul­ti­fo­cal lens.

Age-re­lated mac­u­lar de­gen­er­a­tion (ARMD)

You may ex­pe­ri­ence blurred or dis­torted cen­tral vi­sion, dif­fi­culty reading or driv­ing, or re­duc­tion in colour per­cep­tion. A com­bined sup­ple­ment con­tain­ing zinc, cop­per, vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein and zeax­an­thin may be pre­scribed.

ARMD is de­scribed med­i­cally as “wet” or “dry” type. Wet ARMD can be treated with in­jec­tions of Lu­cen­tis di­rectly into the eye, or laser pro­ce­dures to pre­vent pro­gres­sion of the dis­ease.

There are a num­ber of other age-re­lated eye con­di­tions which can cause your vi­sion to de­cline. Some of these are treat­able, so don’t just accept that it is an in­evitable part of age­ing.

Glau­coma

Glau­coma is the lead­ing cause of pre­ventable blind­ness. It is a con­di­tion that leads to in­creased fluid pres­sure in your eye, dam­ag­ing the op­tic nerve. Risk in­creases if you have a fam­ily his­tory. One in eight people will de­velop glau­coma, but many of those do not know they have it, so reg­u­lar test­ing is es­sen­tial as you get older. Glau­coma can be con­trolled with eye drops and may need laser surgery.

Cataracts

Cataracts are opaque ar­eas in the lens of your eye. The risk in­creases if you smoke, you have di­a­betes or take cor­ti­sone med­i­ca­tion in the long term. Lenses af­fected by cataracts can be re­moved and re­placed with ar­ti­fi­cial lenses.

Di­a­betic retinopa­thy

Di­a­betic retinopa­thy is the dam­age caused to the retina by poorly man­aged di­a­betes. People with di­a­betes should, there­fore, have a reg­u­lar eye ex­am­i­na­tion. Care­ful man­age­ment of di­a­betes with mon­i­tor­ing of blood su­gar lev­els and eye health, diet, ex­er­cise and pre­scribed med­i­ca­tion is im­por­tant in the pre­ven­tion of vi­sion loss.

Dry eye syn­drome

As you get older, your eyes can pro­duce fewer tears. It’s par­tic­u­larly com­mon in women after menopause. It may be a side-ef­fect of some med­i­ca­tions. Dry eye syn­drome causes a tired, scratchy, sting­ing or ir­ri­tated feel­ing. It can also re­sult in in­ter­mit­tent blur­ring of vi­sion. It’s not pos­si­ble to “cure” this con­di­tion, but it can be man­aged with drops or gels to re­place tear pro­duc­tion.

“Have eye checks reg­u­larly as part of your gen­eral health checks.”

Know your eyes Your eyes are a com­plex or­gan, made up of dif­fer­ent parts.

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