Ten Warning signs of vision problems in the Elderly

  • Identifying the Symptoms of Age-Related Eye Problems

Eye problems are more common amongst older people. Aging can induce eye conditions that can cause vision loss. This, however, may be prevented by early detection and regular eye examinations.
Prompt and appropriate action can be taken by understanding the warning signs of eye problems particularly those with sudden symptoms, such as those caused by detached retina or acute glaucoma. The risk of vision loss may be reduced or avoided by taking action early. Your own doctor or optician will refer you to a medical eye specialist if necessary.

What to look out for:

  • Sudden eye pain, redness and nausea

This could mean a sudden but severe bout of narrow-angle glaucoma, which is a serious but treatable condition. Prompt treatment is important to avoid permanent optic nerve damage, which may lead to vision loss.

  • Sudden single eye vision blur

This may mean the development of exudative age related macular degeneration (AMD) or a macular hole. Both conditions typically occur with people who are 60 and older. The macula (located in the centre of the retina) allows fine focusing and without proper diagnosis and action, macular degeneration or a macular hole could worsen.

  • Spots and floaters in the field of vision

These are the typical signs of age-related vitreous detachment, the loosening and the separation of the gel-like interior of the eye from the retina, which is a normal part of aging and generally not something to be worried about. However, if the symptoms are particularly sudden or associated with ongoing flashes of light they could signify a tear or detachment of the retina. Treatment of these conditions is urgent and the doctors at Medical Optics can arrange for you to be seen by an appropriate surgeon if necessary.

  • Surface pain, tearing, or irritation

These are the typical symptoms of dry eye syndrome, a condition that is more annoying than sight-threatening. However older people may experience severe symptoms due to changes in tear production and often benefit from treatment and counseling on lifestyle changes, an eye doctor can help you with this. Sometimes severe stabbing pain like a needle in the back of your eye is not as serious as you might think and can be due to acute dryness of the cornea at the front of the eye.

  • Double vision

Double vision is an important symptom, which should not be ignored. Often a person only gets double vision when they look in a particular direction and this is also an important symptom. Double vision can be due to a problem within the eye itself or due to changes in the nerves, muscles or even the brain that control eye movements. Very rarely double vision can be due to a more serious condition and if you experience double vision you should always attend a doctor without delay.

  • Dark curtain sensation across the visual field

If this is a temporary symptom, which dissapeared after a few seconds or minutes, then it would be important for a person to have a check up with their doctor as this could indicate a mini-stroke. The doctor would make sure that cardiovascular risk factors such as blood pressure and cholesterol are well controlled. The doctor may also get some more tests done to out rule any problems with the blood supply to the head, which could be treated.
If the symptom persists a problem with the retina such as a detachment could be causing the visual problem. If a retinal detachment occurs it is necessary to have re-attachment surgery carried within a few days by a vitreo-retinal surgeon. Therefore you should always report a vision problem of this type to your doctor without delay.

  • Narrowing of vision field

When the visual field narrows, one can only see what’s directly in front. Glaucoma eventually causes this symptom however the patient often doesn’t notice anything until the field of vision is quite narrow. If you notice that your field of vision is narrow in one eye, you should attend an eye doctor for diagnosis and treatment as it could be due to glaucoma or a stroke.

  • Gradual vision loss, distorted vision

Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is a common eye disease which can cause blurring and distortion of vision. Modern medical treatments can effectively address certain types of AMD. Please our the section called “Five Biggest Threats To Your Eyesight” for more detailed information on AMD.

  • Cloudy vision, night light halos, faded colour vision

Blurry or cloudy vision, appearance of halos around night lights and bright colours that appear faded are signs of cataract. A cataract can be surgically removed and replaced by a tiny plastic lens to allow clear focused vision post-operatively. If you drive a car then it is necessary to remove the cataract at a relatively early stage. However if you are elderly and don’t drive and if you can currently see enough to watch television and read, then you can postpone the operation indefinitely or until the blurring really begins to annoy you. You yourself can make the decision on the time for surgery and the surgeon will always fit in with your wishes. Further information on cataracts can be found under the section entitled “Five Biggest Threats To Your Eyesight”.

  • Blurred vision in diabetics

Most people know that diabetics are at a particular risk of problems with their eyes,especially as they get older. If you are diabetic you should visit an eye doctor if you notice any changes with your eyes. It is important for diabetics to control their blood sugar levels as best possible and to engage fully with their own doctor and/or endocrinologist with respect to achieving this. Good blood sugar control is the most important factor in preventing diabetic eye problems. Diabetics should have the retina of their eyes examined once yearly assuming there are no particular problems. This is best done by an eye doctor (ophthalmologist).

  • Diabetic Retinopathy Screening

This is a process whereby the back of your eye is photographed once a year in the National Diabetic Retinopathy Screening Programme which has recently been introduced in Ireland. This is useful for diabetics who do not already attend an eye doctor. At Medical Optics not only will your eyes be photographed but you will have a complete eye examination carried out by one of our specialists who will outrule any complcations of diabetes in your eyes. It is recommended that this is carried out annually or every two years depending on your risk. This service is free for medical card holders at Medical Optics.

  • General

Reduce the risks of vision loss by detecting the early signs of eye problems. Healthy lifestyles with good nutrition and no smoking are crucial factors that help to protect the eyes as we age.