Check your eyes

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Check your eyes
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By Barbara Huelat

Did you know that blindness or low vision affects 3.3 million Americans age 40 and over? According to the National Eye Institute, the prevalence of vision loss from eye diseases is expected to rise as Americans age. 

A recent NIH study reveals that low vision and blindness increase significantly with age, especially in individuals over the age of 65. Currently, those over 80 make up more than 8% of the population, yet represent 69% of cases of blindness. 

As our population continues to age, blindness becomes a growing concern. Vision changes become common with conditions such as presbyopia, cataracts, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy becoming more prevalent as we age. These changes can significantly impact daily life, making it crucial for seniors to be proactive in maintaining their eye health. 

These conditions are the most common eye diseases affecting elderly Alexandrians and are the leading causes of blindness. Vision issues can hinder an active lifestyle, most notably preventing seniors from traveling or living independently. 

To ensure optimal vision health, seniors are encouraged to take fundamental steps, such as scheduling regular eye exams. These exams can detect early signs of eye diseases and conditions and by seeing a doctor, this allows for timely intervention. Local eye care professionals in Alexandria are readily available to provide comprehensive eye exams tailored to the specific needs of seniors. 

Prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses are common solutions for age-related vision problems. Seniors should ensure their eyewear prescriptions are up-to-date to address any changes in vision. Low vision aids, such as magnifiers and adaptive technologies, can significantly enhance the quality of life for seniors with visual impairments. 

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle contributes to overall well-being, including vision health. Adopt healthy habits, such as incorporating a balanced diet rich in nutrients, regular exercise and not smoking, which is known to increase the risk of certain eye conditions. 

The city is committed to being an age-friendly city by extending its dedication to creating environments that support seniors with varying needs. Public spaces, transportation systems and community events should consider the accessibility requirements of seniors with vision impairments. Simple measures, such as well-lit pathways and clear, large-print signage can make a significant difference. 

The Alexandria community is renowned for its strong sense of solidarity. Local organizations and support groups, including the Health of Aging Alexandrians Committee within the Alexandria Commission on Aging and the Prevention of Blindness Society of Metropolitan Washington, play a vital role in assisting seniors with vision needs. Whether through transportation services, social activities or informational resources, these support networks can enhance the lives of seniors facing vision challenges. For additional information, contact Sean Curry, program director with the Prevention of Blindness Society at scurry@youreyes.org. 

Taking responsibility for our vision health is crucial and a simple eye exam can make all the difference. Let’s empower ourselves and our loved ones to prioritize regular eye check-ups, ensuring a clearer, healthier future for all. Your eyesight is invaluable – don’t wait, schedule your eye exam today. 

The writer is a published author and a member of the Health of Aging Alexandrians Committee within the Alexandria Commission on Aging. 

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