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Health > Senior Health > Eye disease

Eye diseases

Who needs the most eye care? Seniors. Why? Most people with serious eye diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration are seniors. So what's the problem? The cost of eye care.

The four most common eye diseases facing seniors today are cataracts, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration and diabetic eye disease. Here is a brief outline on each disease.


Cataracts are a common cause of decreased vision but are very successfully treated with cataract removal/lens implant surgery.


Cloudy or blurry vision.

Colors seem faded.

Glare. Headlights, lamps, or sunlight may appear too bright. A halo may appear around lights.

Poor night vision.

Double vision or multiple images in one eye.

Frequent prescription changes in your eyeglasses or contact lenses.


The symptoms of early cataract may be improved with new eyeglasses, brighter lighting, anti-glare sunglasses, or magnifying lenses. If these don’t help, surgery is the only effective treatment. Surgery involves removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with an artificial lens.

Glaucoma becomes increasingly common with age as well. With early detection, proper treatment, and regular monitoring, your vision can be maintained in most cases.


Glaucoma is a group of diseases that can damage the eye’s optic nerve. It is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States, and the most common cause of blindness among African-Americans. More than three million people have glaucoma, but half do not realize it because there are often no warning symptoms.


In most cases, there are no symptoms during the early stages of the disease, however, as glaucoma progresses, it slowly damages the optic nerve fibers of the eye and the field of vision narrows which can create “blind spots” within the field of vision.

loss of peripheral (side) vision


blurred vision

difficulty or inability to adjust vision in darkened rooms

difficulty focusing on close work

rainbow-colored rings or halos around lights

frequent need to change eyeglass prescriptions


Medication in the form of eyedrops or pills, are the most common early treatment for glaucoma. Laser or conventional surgery are also available options when needed.

Age related mascular degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss in Americans 60 years of age and older. AMD is a disease that blurs the sharp, central vision you need for straight-ahead activities such as reading, sewing, and driving. AMD affects the macula, the part of the eye that allows you to see fine detail.

AMD occurs in both a wet and dry form of the condition. Slow occurring or dry AMD affects 90 percent of those with the condition. Fast occurring or wet AMD affects 10 percent of AMD cases.


Slightly blurred vision is the most common symptom of AMD. Other symptoms may include wavy lines or a blind spot in the center of the field of vision.

Blurry or fuzzy vision.

Straight lines, such as sentences on a page, will appear wavy.

A dark or empty area in the center of your field of vision.

The cause of macular degeneration is unknown and there is currently no cure for it. Your ophthalmologist's goal will be to help you see better and stabilize the condition. For wet AMD, a laser treatment may be used in some cases to remove the abnormal blood vessels. It works best when these vessels haven't grown under the macula.


Medication and/or laser surgery can aid some cases of wet AMD. At the present time, there is not an effective treatment for advanced dry AMD, however treatment can delay and possibly prevent intermediate AMD from progressing to the advanced stage, in which vision loss occurs.

Diabetic eye disease

Diabetic eye disease refers to a group of vision impairing eye problems that people with diabetes may develop such as diabetic retinopathy as well as glaucoma and cataracts. People with diabetes should have a professional eye examination as soon as their diabetes is diagnosed, and at least once a year thereafter.

By detecting and treating diabetic eye disease early through annual, dilated eye exams, people with diabetes can preserve their sight.

Eating well

Many older people have trouble eating well.

What are specific nutritional recommendations for seniors?

Reduce sodium (salt) to help prevent water retention and high blood pressure

Monitor fat intake in order to maintain healthy cholesterol levels

Consume more calcium and vitamin D for bone health

Eat more fiber-rich foods to prevent constipation

Cut back on sugar and on dry foods

Make sure you get the recommended amount of important vitamins and minerals

Increase your water intake

Participate in regular physical activity.

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