While anyone can develop eye problems at any age, seniors are especially vulnerable. Apart from common vision problems like astigmatism and myopia, seniors are especially prone to eye issues like cataracts, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Additionally, systemic comorbidities like diabetes and cardiovascular disease increase an elderly’s risks of developing eye problems. In Singapore, in particular, ignorance regarding eye health is also contributing to seniors’ vision woes.
Tell-tale signs that one’s vision is deteriorating include the following:
- Distorted colours
- Progressively needing more and more light to read comfortably
- Difficulty focussing on very close images (presbyopia)
- More glare from bright lights, especially car headlights
Vision loss at an advanced age is not to be taken lightly. Seniors who develop serious eye problems will have trouble moving, resulting in them having to cut back on physical activity; this has serious consequences to their bone, joint, and cardiovascular health. They will also be less able to read and participate in social activities, potentially affecting their mental well-being as well.
Fortunately, preserving most of one’s vision is possible, even at an advanced age—although it does take significant and consistent effort throughout one’s life. Let’s look at several eye care tips that seniors should follow:
Get Regular Eye Exams
Regularly seeing an eye specialist in Singapore is an important step not just for identifying eye diseases, but also for providing clues into one’s overall health. Many comorbidities like diabetes and cardiovascular disease often manifest as eye problems, so having one’s vision checked may offer early warnings of these conditions. Seniors should aim to visit an ophthalmologist at least once every two years, or immediately if they’re experiencing unusual vision problems.
Wear UV-Blocking Glasses Outdoors
There’s evidence that two hours a day of outside time can be beneficial for preventing myopia in young children. However, the science remains unclear on whether seniors’ eyesight can benefit from being outdoors as well. In any case, tropical countries like Singapore receive high doses of UV radiation, something that has been actually proven harmful to adults’ eyes. While seniors shouldn’t be afraid to enjoy the outdoors, it’s best to limit their time in direct sunlight and wear UV-protective sunglasses.
Keep Tabs On Glucose and Cholesterol
Because the eyes are full of fine blood vessels, conditions that affect the cardiovascular system will invariably affect eyesight. Any disruption caused by systemic comorbidities like diabetes can easily cause permanent vision problems. To avoid the loss of eyesight and other serious life quality issues, seniors need to visit their physician regularly to monitor their blood glucose and cholesterol levels. Eating a diet that’s rich in antioxidants and low in sugar should also help prevent or mitigate these comorbidities.
The US Centers for Disease Control recommends that seniors get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activities like brisk walking. Those who have a sufficient level of fitness can also opt for 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity, such as jogging. Getting sufficient exercise helps keep the cardiovascular system in good shape, thus preventing comorbidities that may impact eye health in seniors.
Smoking is a leading risk factor for AMD, multiplying the risk by as much as four-fold for seniors. It also triples the risk of developing cataracts compared to non-smokers. Though quitting smoking can be exceedingly difficult, it is perhaps one of the most important things seniors can do to maintain their eye health.
Wear Prescription Glasses Consistently
To be clear, prescription glasses can only correct vision as the user wears them and are not able to meaningfully restore one’s vision. However, prescription glasses also serve to improve one’s quality of life in ways that will then make it possible to care for one’s health and eyes much more consistently.
Follow Recommended Contact Lens Hygiene
Many seniors experience memory loss, which can be a problem if they wear corrective contact lenses. Some people can forget that they’re wearing their contacts and end up falling asleep with them on or wearing them for several days on end. Setting a phone alarm to remove and clean contact lenses at a specific time can help prevent infections and traumatic eye injuries resulting from improper use.
Finding Ophthalmologists in Singapore
With its record myopia rates, Singapore is no stranger to eye problems. In 2019, Senior Minister of State for Health Dr Lam Pin Min revealed that 83 percent of adults were myopic, with 65 percent of children in Singapore developing myopia by Primary 6. It’s therefore no surprise that the country’s healthcare system is well-equipped to handle a full range of eye health issues, including in seniors.
For now, there’s little that can be done to completely halt age-related vision loss. As with other parts of the human body, the various components of the eye that contribute to clear vision will inevitably lose flexibility and deteriorate as one grows older. Fortunately, with consistent effort and regular trips to an ophthalmologist, seniors can maintain most of their sight even at an advanced age.