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Why Vision Exams Are So Important As We Age

August 03, 2021

Losing eye sight, or experiencing low vision, can make life challenging. The world begins to look blurry and out of focus, cloudy or you begin to experience tunnel vision. And for most of us, it’s eye-opening to realize that once vision is lost it cannot be regained.

According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), 4.2 million people aged 40 and older in the United States already have some vision impairment, and that number is expected to jump to 7.2 million by 2030.

Of those adults, 5 million will have low vision, which is defined as any type of eye condition that cannot be corrected only with standard eyeglasses, contact lenses, prescription drugs or surgery. Low vision can affect your ability to:

  • See things directly or peripherally
  • Distinguish facial features or things that are very close in color
  • Perceive depth
  • Focus on objects and understand what they are

Macular Degeneration and Glaucoma: The Two Most Common Conditions Affecting Your Direct or Peripheral Vision

Macular degeneration refers to the deterioration of a small portion of the inside of the eye called the macula. This condition rarely causes blindness, but it can severely impair your eyesight. Macular degeneration is often considered age-related because it mainly affects people who are 60 years old or older. This condition cannot be cured, but treatment can help slow the degeneration.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) can be diagnosed during an eye exam, in which you'll be asked to look at a grid with a number of straight lines. If some of the lines look wavy or you don't see all of the lines, it could be an indication of AMD. The degenerative condition can also be detected with more sophisticated tests that look inside your eye.

Glaucoma, a condition of increased pressure within the eyeball that causes gradual loss of sight, can be detected during an vision screening test that includes dilation of your pupils. This helps your ophthalmologist look clearly into your eyes.

If you have higher risk of glaucoma than the general population, it’s important to get tested. Those with higher susceptibility of glaucoma include:

  • Adults, particularly Mexican Americans, 60 years and older and African Americans 40 years and older
  • Individuals with a family history of glaucoma.

Depending on your family history and risk factors, think ahead and get tested for AMD, glaucoma and other low-vision conditions before your vision can become impaired, permanently. The risk factors for vision issues are many, which is why it’s so important to make eye doctor visits a regular part of your preventive health routine.