Take care of your eyes; they’re the only two you have

Vision is an all-important part of everyday life. It influences how people of all ages learn, communicate, work, play, interact with others, and go about their daily routines.

It is widely known millions of Americans live with visual impairment, and many more remain at risk for eye diseases and preventable eye injuries.

Although 94 percent of Americans, aged 12 and older, have good vision, the remaining 6 percent, or 14 million, are visually impaired. Furthermore, of this number, 83 percent (11 million) have a visual impairment that can be corrected with glasses or contacts, but 17 percent (3 million) can’t be corrected with just putting on a pair glasses or contacts.

For the most part, people start noticing in their early 40s their vision is changing. Some discover they need glasses to see up close, have more trouble adjusting to glare, or have trouble distinguishing some colors especially when watching their favorite TV show.

The aforementioned changes are a normal part of aging, and alone, cannot stop people from enjoying an active lifestyle or stop them from maintaining their independence. In fact, some in their “golden years” can live an active life without ever experiencing severe vision loss. But as people get older, they are at higher risk of developing age-related eye diseases and conditions including, but limited to: age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic eye disease, glaucoma and dry eye disease symptoms.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a problem with the retina some people over the age of 50 may experience. It happens when a part of the retina called the macula is damaged. With AMD, people lose their central vision and can’t see fine details whether they are looking at something close or far, but their peripheral vision will still be normal. For example, imagine someone is looking at a clock with hands. With AMD, they might see the clock’s numbers, but not the hands.

If someone’s vision has started having blurry or cloudy vision, they may have cataracts. Cataracts usually form slowly and a person may not know they have them until they start to block light. Then they might notice their vision is getting cloudy, blurry, foggy, or filmy; become nearsighted; find they have changes in the way they see color; have problems driving at night (glare from oncoming headlights, for example); problems with glare during daytime hours; experience double vision; or have trouble with eyeglasses or contact lenses not working well. It’s a common condition in older adults, and it can be treated.

Glaucoma is a complicated disease in which damage to the optic nerve leads to progressive, irreversible vision loss. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness and in simple terms, is an eye disease that gradually steals someone’s sight. Because it has few warning signs or symptoms before damage has occurred, it is important to see a doctor for regular eye examinations. If glaucoma is detected during an eye exam, the ophthalmologist can prescribe a preventative treatment to help protect vision before there could be irrevocable damage.

Dry eye disease symptoms are caused by a lack of adequate tears. Tears are a complex mixture of water, fatty oils, and mucus. This mixture helps make the surface of the eyes smooth and clear, and it helps protect eyes from infection. For many elderly people, the cause of dry eyes is an imbalance in the composition of their tears and they don't produce enough tears to keep their eyes comfortably lubricated. Eyelid problems, medications, and other causes such as environmental factors, can also lead to dry eyes.

Some of the typical symptoms related to dry eye disease include: a stinging, burning or scratchy sensation in the eyes; stringy mucus in or around their eyes; increased eye irritation from smoke or wind; eye fatigue; sensitivity to light; eye redness; sensation of having something in their eyes; difficulty wearing contact lenses; periods of excessive tearing; and blurred vision, often worsening at the end of the day or after focusing for a prolonged period.

It is almost like a going to a casino and dropping money on crap if people do not take their vision seriously. Even though someone may not believe they are having any visual impairment issues and don’t think they need glasses, it is extremely important for them to periodically set up an appointment with an ophthalmologist for an eye-wellness check.

It is better to be safe than sorry because a person could possibly lose this vision completely if not diagnosed and treated.

Editor’s Note: Butch Meriwether paid $3,500 nine years ago to have Lasik eye surgery to correct his need of having to wear bifocal glasses. The surgery went well, and he only had to wear glasses to read up close. He called those reading glasses “cheaters.” But during late 2015 and early 2016, he began having trouble with his diabetes and maintaining his sugar levels that sometimes spiked to more than 500. Just about the same time, he noticed his vision was starting to fail again. When this occurred, he contacted the Veterans Administration and they set him up with an appointment with a Kingman ophthalmologist with many years of experience dealing with individuals with diabetes and who wear glasses. The prognosis determined by the ophthalmologist was Butch’s diabetes caused him to start wearing bifocals again in order to overcome his visual impairment.

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