By Sean Curry
As people age, reading the fine print on the soup can or subtitles on the TV may become more difficult than they once were. Minor vision loss like difficulty seeing objects clearly, reading small print or distinguishing similar colors is a natural process. However, significant vision loss, legal blindness and the development of eye diseases – such as age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy – are not normal parts of aging.
Increased age raises the risk of developing eye diseases and significant vision loss. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, one in six Americans over the age of 65 will develop a vision issue that cannot be corrected with glasses or contact lenses. Many eye diseases exhibit no noticeable symptoms in their early stages and may lead to permanent, significant vision loss to the point where one’s quality of life is threatened.
A major step all people should do is schedule a regular, dilated comprehensive eye exam with an eye doctor. This exam is the only way many eye diseases are caught early, before vision loss occurs. No matter age or health status, a comprehensive dilated eye exam is important for monitoring eye health and maintaining independence.
Successfully aging in place involves taking good care of our eyes and vision. There are several healthy habits that can help optimize eye health. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, especially dark leafy greens, and fish high in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon or mackerel is beneficial for both eye and overall health. In addition, not smoking, wearing sunglasses with UVA/UVB protection and wearing protective eyewear when playing sports or completing yard work are excellent ways to help preserve vision.
If already experiencing significant vision loss or eye disease, fear not. Proper treatment adherence and keeping doctor’s visits will help preserve remaining sight. In addition, when there is nothing more that can be done to improve sight medically, there are a plethora of resources available for those who have low vision or blindness to still enjoy normal everyday activities. From magnifiers and bump dots to phone apps and transportation services, the D.C. Metropolitan region offers plenty, most at no or minimal extra cost. Contact the Prevention of Blindness Society of Metropolitan Washington to learn more.
Low vision rehabilitation specialists help provide needed services and resources by developing individualized rehabilitation programs to optimize remaining sight. Losing sight is not a death sentence; it is just a change in perspective.
POB is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the improvement and preservation of sight and quality of life by providing services and championing healthy vision. POB leads many sight-saving programs in the D.C. Metropolitan region for all ages and vision levels.
In Alexandria, POB has a Low Vision Learning Center and Resale Shop in Old Town and a Low Vision Resource Group at Alexandria’s Beatley Central Library. POB also provides vision screenings for both children and adults. To learn more about different sight-saving services POB has, or to schedule a service, call their office at 202-234-1010 or email [email protected]
The writer is program coordinator for the Prevention of Blindness Society of Metropolitan Washington.