Aging-Eye Related Diseases

May 30th, 2010 | By Sharon Shaw Elrod MSW EdD | Category: Lifestyle, Health & Fitness

Seniors, What do glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration and cataracts all have in common?  Yes, they are all dis-eases that affect the eye.  But more important, they all strike senior citizens more than any other generation.  They affect the aging eye.

The common risk factors for all four conditions is aging.  Glaucoma is considered an ‘end stage’ illness, occurring when other factors are present, and when combined, glaucoma results.  This disease is generally characterized by high pressure in the eye, and if untreated, may cause serious damage to the optic nerve and can result in blindness.  Those risk factors include high intraocular (eye) pressure, family history, race, cupping of the optic nerve, central cornea thickness less than 0.5mm, and aging. 

Diabetic retinopathy may occur with anyone who has diabetes. It is a condition in which the blood vessels that feed the retina are damaged.  Again, if the diabetes is not well controlled, vision may be impaired; ultimately blindness may result if not managed appropriately.  The risk factors include poor control of blood sugar, high blood pressure, race, high cholesterol, pregnancy, smoking and age.  The longer you have diabetes, the greater is the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy.

Macular degenerationis a condition in which there is progressive damage to the macula; the macula is the central part of the retina that allows us to see fine details.  Risk factors include aging, smoking and family history.  Thirty per-cent of elders over 75 can expect to suffer from macular degeneration.

Cataracts are cloudiness (opacity) in the lens of the eye.  Risk factors include aging, female gender, sunlight exposure, myopia (near-sightedness); smokers and those with brown eyes have greater incidence of cataracts.  As well, steroid users, those with trauma to the eye, and diabetics are at greater risk for developing cataracts.

So if we seniors are at greater risk for these eye-related diseases, what can we do to prevent them, or at a minimum, slow them down?

As always, nutrition may play a large role in maintaining eye health.  Carotenoids (Lutein and Zeaxanthin), Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Pro-Vitamin A (beta-carotene) have been proven to provide antioxidant protection to the human body; as such, they may provide anti-aging defenses for the eye as well.  For those of us seniors who are at high risk for chronic, age-related eye disease, we are well-advised to gather as much research-based information as possible.  The combination of traditional medical science and treatment with appropriately prescribed medications, newly-discovered alternative medical resources and effective nutritional supplements may provide the protection from blindness that we all desire. 

Keywords you may want to use in your browser search window include all four diseases followed by

  • risk factors
  • diagnosis
  • treatment
  • nutrition

There is a reassuring abundance of information available on the Internet to help us get a handle on these agingeye related diseases.



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