Recognizing Vision Loss in Older Adults

Jun 21, 2016

Recognizing Vision Loss in Older Adults

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Vision loss is simply a part of growing old for many people. Unfortunately, the amount of elderly individuals that suffer from vision loss is rising, and the end is nowhere in sight. The American Association for the Blind states that by 2030, the number of adults over the age of 65 suffering from significant vision loss will more than double!

With this in mind, it’s important to understand that no one wants to become a statistic, and vision loss can be an embarrassing part of aging because many feel that it makes them less dependent. Many older adults that begin experiencing the signs and symptoms of vision loss will try to hide it, in hopes that those around them won’t notice.

Signs of Vision Loss in Seniors

The issue of hiding vision loss lies within safety. Those experiencing vision loss are more susceptible to household accidents, like slips and falls, and more likely to become involved in a vehicle accident. Furthermore, vision loss can become apparent as a symptom of a more serious health issue, such as diabetes and many forms of cancer.

Fortunately, there are typically many recognizable signs of vision loss that occur in the individual at the question. If you notice your older loved one doing any of these things, it may be time to talk to them about vision loss:

  1. Tripping when approaching rugs or steps - Have you noticed your loved one being extremely cautious and staring at the floor as they approach a step, set of stairs, detached rugs or anything else that may be on the floor?
  2. Holding reading material extremely close to the face - This typically shows that the individual has trouble reading something unless it is right in front of their eyes, likely because it appears blurred if it’s father away. If you see a loved one doing this, ask them if they’re having trouble seeing.
  3. Expressing concerns about the lighting in a specific area - Those with poor vision have a difficult time reading and concentrating in areas with dimmed lighting.
  4. Complaining of headaches when it’s difficult to read - Blurred vision can give many people bad headaches, especially when they are trying to read something. Some people even begin to suffer from horrible migraines.
  5. Saying that their eyes hurt - Being unable to see can really strain your eyes. Similarly to causing headaches, the individual with vision loss can begin to experience what feels like a pain in their eyes.
  6. Wearing clothes or shoes that don’t match - Did your loved one wear one black shoe and one brown shoe to dinner last weekend? Well, he or she may be having difficulties seeing. Similarly with clothes, whether they are not matched, you noticed a button or zipper was missed.
  7. Squinting their eyes while looking at things - This allows people that are experiencing vision loss to focus in on one thing at a time. Perhaps they are looking at the very busy poster, filled with text and graphics. You may see them squinting their eyes while trying to read the text in order to focus.
  8. Inability to read road signs -Those who experience vision loss due to complications of aging typically have problems seeing things that are far away rather than up close. Because of this, a sure sign that an individual’s vision is suffering is their inability to read road signs until they are extremely close to them.
  9. Unsuccessfully reaching for objects - Did your loved one reach for their fork and grab nothing? Did they try to get a piece of food with that same fork, and missed? This is one of the more obvious ways to recognize vision loss in an older individual.

About 16 percent of older individuals suffer from vision loss. Is your loved one one of them? Don’t wait – seek out a physician today if you suspect that your loved one is suffering from vision loss.

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Frequently Asked Questions

I was told my diabetes can affect my vision. Is this true?

Yes, unfortunately diabetes can actually cause damage to the eyes. What happens is essentially this - higher blood glucose levels cause blood to become thicker, leading to more fluid around the lenses of the eye and blurred vision. High blood pressure is another way that the optic nerve can become damaged and can lead to blindness. If one’s blood glucose goes unchecked, retinopathy can cause permanent eye damage as well. Staying on top of your condition is one way to maintain healthy vision into your golden years!v

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What sorts of things happen to the eyes of people who develop cataracts?

Cataracts in seniors occur when the lens of the eye becomes cloudy and obstructs one's vision. For seniors with diabetes, the risk of developing cataracts is greater. If you think that you or a loved one may be developing cataracts, it's important to see a doctor. However, there are some symptoms you can look for ahead of time:

  • Faded colors
  • Frequent changes in eyeglass prescription
  • Impaired vision at night caused by effects of bright lights
  • Halo around lights
  • Problems with glares from lamps or the sun
  • Double vision
  • White/cloudy spot in the lens of eyes

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