Baby Boomers Are Losing Focus
Suddenly the print in the paper seems too small. The numbers on the clock are blurry. Sooner or later, almost everybody notices that their vision is changing. That’s why, as we get older, regular comprehensive eye exams are more important than ever.
As we age, so do our eyes
In the United States, 119 million people were born between 1946 and 1965. These are the baby boomers. Studies show that over the next 30 years aging baby boomers will double the current number of blind or visually impaired Americans.
Early detection saves vision
Want to prevent or slow vision loss? According to many eye care professionals, the best way to accomplish this is with early detection through regular eye exams. Even though vision may be clear, exams can uncover changes in the eye caused by high blood pressure, diabetes, eye tumors, retinal disorders and glaucoma. Some of these have no symptoms in the early stages. Eye exams can also lead to the earliest detection of other serious health problems—including diabetes or hypertension (high blood pressure).
What can go wrong?
- Presbyopia is a progressive condition that makes reading and doing close work, such as sewing, increasingly difficult as eyes age. For people in their 40’s and early 50’s, it’s often the first sign of aging; by age 55, it affects everyone. Even those with perfect eyesight may find they can no longer read books and printed materials at normal distances. While it’s not sight–threatening, presbyopia can only be properly diagnosed and treated by an eyecare professional. Glasses and bifocals can be prescribed to help you adapt to the changes.
- Diabetic retinopathy, a common complication of diabetes, results in broken, leaking or blocked blood vessels in the retina. Over time, this impairs vision. Nearly half of all people with diabetes have some problem with retinopathy, and the risk increases with age. An estimated 5.3 million Americans are currently affected.
- Age-related macular degeneration, which currently affects 1.6 million Americans, primarily affects the part of the retina responsible for sharp central vision. It is the most common cause of legal blindness and vision impairment in older Americans.
- A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s naturally clear lens. Most cataracts appear with advancing age, but they can be caused by smoking, diabetes and excessive exposure to sunlight. They currently affect nearly 20.5 million Americans age 40 and older.
- Glaucoma is a disease that causes gradual damage to the optic nerve because of a build-up of fluid in the eyeball. The optic nerve carries visual information from the eye to the brain. As many as half the people with glaucoma don’t know they have it because loss of vision occurs slowly until a significant amount of nerve damage has occurred. Approximately 2.2 million Americans age 40 and older have been diagnosed with glaucoma, and it is estimated that another 2 million do not even know they have it.
Set your sights on regular eye exams
To prevent or slow vision loss, you need regular eye exams. But what does regular mean? Talk to your eye doctor to find out. If your family has a history of eye disease, diabetes, or poor health, or if you’re taking medicine that could have side effects on the eye, you may need an eye exam once a year.