Seniors with Low Vision Twice as likely to Fall
Although there are many factors that can cause a fall, vision loss is often the primary cause. Even the smallest change in a person’s vision can increase the risk of a fall, especially in seniors.
“Seniors with visual impairment are twice as likely to fall,” says Dr. Joshua C. Smith, President of the Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO). “And often they are not aware of how subtle forms of impairment, such as changes in peripheral vision and depth perception, can contribute to accident occurrence and avoidance.”
Age-related vision conditions such as cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, and even simply not wearing glasses, can prevent seniors from seeing objects in their way and lead to falls.
Falls can be quite serious and often result in injuries such as hip fractures and head trauma, which can have a debilitating effect on a person’s quality of life. However, many falls can help be prevented through a comprehensive eye examination. An optometrist can diagnose vision-threatening conditions so that appropriate action can be taken before an accident occurs.
“As primary eye care providers, it is our responsibility not only to address patients' vision and eye health needs, but also to discuss safety and injury prevention concerns, so that our patients can continue living safely and independently," says Dr. Smith.
Annual eye exams for adults over the age of 65 are covered by OHIP.
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Detection for cataracts starts younger than you think. As you age, your eyes undergo natural changes. However, if this includes blurry vision, difficulty seeing in dim light or extra sensitivity to light, these might be symptoms of cataracts.
Recent studies have found that more than 2.5 million Canadians have cataracts. This common eye disorder is typically caused by aging, though other risk factors include a family history of the condition, diabetes, some medications and prolonged sun exposure without proper protection.
As we grow older, the lenses of our eyes thicken and become cloudier. Cataracts are detected when vision is obstructed, similar to looking through a dirty car windshield. Eventually, those suffering from cataracts may find it more difficult to read, and colours of the objects around them may begin to appear dull or muted. Fortunately, the disorder can be corrected with surgery and risk can be lowered by using adequate sun protection and quitting smoking.
Since cataracts start small and grow over time, visual impairment may be underestimated by the person with the problem. The Canadian Ophthalmological Society recommends scheduling regular eye exams to be evaluated for the presence of cataracts and other potentially blinding eye disorders. If you have any of the above symptoms, it’s important to see your eye care practitioner for a diagnosis and to discuss treatment.
It’s no secret that as we age, our bodies and health change in ways that can slow us down, but prioritizing healthy vision can help to ensure we see clearly later in life. Learn more at cos-sco.ca.
Vision care is something you should think about long before you struggle to read the fine print. It should be part of your overall health regimen to ensure that any issues are identified and treated early. Here’s what to look for at every stage:
Toddlers and kids. Vision plays a crucial role in how children learn about the world. But don’t rely on your little ones to speak up about vision challenges – they don’t have anything to compare their sight to and they might not realize they have a problem. Make sure your kids have their eyes checked at least once by the age of three and continue to see an eye care professional annually.
20s and 30s. Noticing a decline in your vision? Most people think blurry vision is a sign they need vision correction like contact lenses or glasses, but it is also a symptom of dry eye. According to a survey by Alcon Canada, 85 per cent of us have experienced at least one dry eye symptom. Don’t put up with poor vision, talk to your eye care professional about your symptoms. The solution could be as simple as an over-the-counter all-in-one eye drop like Systane Complete.
40s. Did your arms suddenly get too short to read your smartphone newsfeed? You’re not alone – more than 7.5 million Canadians are living with presbyopia, the gradual loss in the eye’s ability to focus on close objects. Talk to your eye care professional to go readers-free and see everything near, far and in-between with multifocal contact lenses.
50s and beyond. Reminiscing about the days when cloudy vision, light sensitivity and muted colour didn’t get in your way? More than 2.5 million Canadians are living with cataracts, a natural condition that forms when protein builds up and clouds the lens in your eye. To restore clear vision, talk to your eye care professional about cataract surgery and the lens replacement options available to treat multiple eye conditions at once. The right lens could mean seeing the world in vivid colour or not having to wear reading glasses.
Eye diseases like macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy can have a significant impact on a senior’s functional abilities and quality of life. For some, impaired vision may even result in depression, withdrawal and inactivity.
According to Pris Rogers, program manager of VisionAware.org, an informational website for individuals living with vision loss, caregivers are often equally confused and overwhelmed by their loved ones’ visual changes. They do not know where to turn or how to help their elders who are struggling to accept new limitations.
“Many older adults believe that there is no way they can cope with this loss, since it affects almost all aspects of daily life,” Rogers explains. “But, caregivers and persons with visual impairment need to know that there is hope, and life, after vision loss.”
As most people age, their vision needs change. Complications often arise, and getting expert care from a Doctor of Optometry is critical.
At age 65 and older, adults should have an eye exam at least once a year. A comprehensive eye health examination should be the key to preserving your vision and making it last a lifetime. Regular exams conducted by your Doctor of Optometry give you peace of mind in knowing that your eyes are being treated by an eye health professional that can identify potential health issues early.
Early identification and treatment of conditions that can often have no visible symptoms is key to protecting your sight.
Adults aged 65 or older are at a higher risk for a number of eye conditions and diseases that can threaten your sight, including:
For adults, a regular eye exam is an important part of maintaining your overall health and making your vision last a lifetime. Without an eye exam, critical health issues can be overlooked until it’s too late.
Our eyes change as we age. In particular, people over the age of 40 may be at an increased risk for age-related eye conditions, some of which may have no visible symptoms until the condition is advanced and difficult, or even impossible, to treat.
The most common eye problems among adults include:
Adults aged 19 to 64 should have an eye exam at least every two years, and people with diabetes should have an exam at least once a year. Other health conditions assessed by your Doctor of Optometry may also warrant more frequent eye examinations.
Just like your body, your eyes and vision change over time. While not everyone will experience the same symptoms, the following are common age-related vision changes:
Beginning in the early to mid-40s, many adults may start to have problems seeing clearly at close distances, especially when reading and working on the computer. This is among the most common problems adults develop between ages 41 to 60. This normal change in the eye's focusing ability, called presbyopia, will continue to progress over time.
Initially, you may need to hold reading materials farther away to see them clearly. Or you may need to remove your glasses to see better up close. Print in the newspaper or on a restaurant menu may appear blurred, especially under dim lighting.
If you already wear prescription glasses or contact lenses to see clearly in the distance, these changes in your near vision can be corrected by switching to bifocal or multifocal lenses. Fortunately, people with presbyopia now have many options to improve their vision.
For a list of common age-related vision changes click here
As life progresses we get busy. Whether you are a stay-at-home, work-from-home, working part-time, or full time, the constraints on your schedule can be overwhelming and optometrist visits can become less regular.
Your eyecare is important to your overall health and wellness and should not be something that gets put on the back burner. Caring for your family means watching for signs of vision problems as well.
Speak up if you notice these signs of eye strain or infection in your partner or children
It's common as we go about our day-to-day schedules that symptoms like these to get overlooked. We are so adaptable as humans that we will often make adjustments to live with vision issues we are having instead of taking the time to get them looked at. This is especially true for children.
If your partner hasn't had a full eye exam in the past two years, you should schedule one — especially if they are over the age of 40. Natural changes in the eyes associated with age makes more frequent eye exams necessary as you grow older, especially if you haven’t had one in a few years.
Show your love. The buddy approach to eyecare can help avoid major issues. Be mindful to care for eachother eyehealth, watch for abnormal behaviour and suggest an eye appointment. You may pick up on something your loved ones may not even notice.
A 45-year-old woman recently visited her optometrist after noticing her vision was unusually fuzzy and distorted at times. This had been going on for a while, but she hadn’t seen an optometrist for years and wasn’t concerned. She had no idea that her life was about to change when she sat down in the exam chair,
Her optometrist immediately recognized the signs of macular degeneration, a disease that causes painless and irreversible vision loss. This was a devastating diagnosis, particularly because the woman’s vision loss likely could have been prevented, or at the very least delayed, with an earlier diagnosis. An eye exam just one year earlier could have uncovered the problem, allowing for treatment to begin.
Unfortunately, this happens all the time.
The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness estimates that 285 million people worldwide are visually impaired. Shockingly, an overwhelming 80 per cent of those cases could have been prevented or treated.
Those numbers could be drastically reduced if individuals followed a few basic steps:
1. First, living a healthy and active lifestyle goes a long way toward minimizing the chances of losing vision. Not smoking, exercising regularly, eating a healthy and balanced diet, and wearing UV-protective sunglasses are all actions that can help preserve vision.
2. Second, it’s important to visit a doctor of optometry regularly for comprehensive eye exams. This could not only save your sight – it could also help save your life. Along with symptomless eye diseases, many underlying health conditions are often first detected through an eye exam, ranging from diabetes and high blood pressure to certain forms of cancer.
3. Third, be sure that you are getting a comprehensive eye exam performed by an optometrist, rather than a basic vision or sight test. Vision and sight tests are limited and can’t be used to diagnose a health or vision problem. In fact, studies have shown that 43 per cent of children with vision problems are able to pass vision screening tests performed in schools.
The reality is most people only book an eye exam when their vision deteriorates. Good vision does not necessarily equate to healthy eyes, because many problems show no symptoms at all. The woman with macular degeneration waited until it was too late to visit an optometrist. Make regular comprehensive eye exams a priority and protect one of your greatest assets – your sight.
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