The Importance of a Yearly Eye Exam for Seniors
Older adults often underestimate the importance of having an annual vision exam. If the prescription on their glasses seems to be working well, a senior might not want to incur the expense of what seems like an unnecessary exam.
It’s important to know, however, that a yearly visit to the eye doctor includes more than just a vision test.
As we age, our risk for a variety of eye problems increases. Routine screenings can help detect a small problem before it becomes a big one. An annual vision exam can also help identify the presence of other health problems, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
In recognition of National Eye Exam Month, here’s a quick summary of the health conditions that can be identified by scheduling a yearly visit with the eye doctor.
- Cataracts: Most seniors know age is the leading risk factor for cataracts. What many people are surprised to learn, however, is that untreated cataracts can lead to vision loss. Cataracts occur when the lens of the eye becomes less flexible. Symptoms include blurred or foggy vision, as well as sensitivity to light. The good news is that cataracts can usually be corrected with a simple outpatient procedure.
- Glaucoma: This vision problem is caused by a buildup of pressure within the eye. It can damage the optic nerve and lead to peripheral vision loss or a complete loss of vision. What makes glaucoma challenging is there are usually no early symptoms or pain associated with it. A yearly vision exam is important for catching it in the early stages.
- Diabetic retinopathy: This is the leading cause of blindness in adults. Unfortunately, it is another vision problem that has no early warning signs. Diabetic retinopathy is caused by damage to the blood vessels of the retina, which can make them swell and leak fluid. During a yearly vision exam, an eye doctor will dilate the eyes to look for signs of this disease.
- Hypertensive retinopathy: Many people are aware of the link between hypertension and heart or kidney problems. But hypertension can also cause vision damage. Because some adults aren’t even aware they have high blood pressure, it can go untreated. Untreated hypertension can damage blood vessels in the back of the eye, which leads to narrowing of the blood vessels in the retina. That can cause bleeding in the back of the eye and swelling of the optic nerve. Having a yearly eye exam gives your doctor a chance to diagnose and intervene while the condition is in its earliest stages.
- Cognitive decline: Research seems to suggest a link between mild signs of retinal vascular changes and cognitive decline. Scientists believe an annual vision exam can help detect these changes in their earliest stages, when symptom management may help slow the progression of the illness.
At Sunrise Senior Living communities, resident wellness is a priority. Programs such as Live With Action encourage residents to stay physically active, an important part of aging well. We invite you to join us for a wellness activity at a Sunrise community near you. Call today to learn more!