The focus on eyesight and eye health must be high from the earliest years of life. Prevention of eye diseases starts from early childhood and can be of crucial importance especially at certain stages of life. School age, for example, is the time when it is important to diagnose and correct refraction defects, such as shortsightedness or astigmatism. Another equally delicate phase is approaching to old age, when alterations related to ageing begin to arise. How to take care of your vision after the age of 60? We discuss this with Dr. Fabrizio Camesasca, a specialist at Humanitas ophthalmology.
Eyes and age
The years go by and…. the sight is affected. Age is a non-modifiable risk factor for various eye diseases. Even a healthy eye with an acute vision inevitably suffers from a drop in performance after a certain age. A well-known and noticeable symptom is observed when attempting to read with less difficulty and more clearly, the printed material or screen of an electronic device tends to be distanced from the face. This is called presbyopia, a condition associated with aging that begins to manifest itself after the age of 40. This condition is due to the loss of efficiency of the lens-muscle system of ocular accommodation, which progressively loses its function, thus changing the overall optical power of the eye.
In adulthood, the eye’s ability to adapt quickly to changes in lighting worsens, especially during the evening, just think of driving at dusk or at night. This is linked to the progressive decrease in pupil dilatation capacity and to the progressive deficit of accommodation.
After the age of 50, although visual quality does not immediately change, some age-related diseases may begin to manifest themselves. This includes the alteration of tissues that play a critical role in the vision process or in the proper functioning of the visual organ.
In case of the inner lens of the eye, the crystalline, losing its transparency due to sunlight, we may be talking about cataracts. If you alter the drainage system of the liquid produced inside the eye, there will be a progressive increase in the internal eye pressure. This condition generates a very slow and asymptomatic damage to the optic nerve with progressive reduction of the visual field: glaucoma.
In cases where the gelatin contained in the ocular globe, the vitreous body, makes its appearance in the opacity vision, it is referred to as fog, jelly, flying flies, or even flashes. This may be better perceived in darkness and easily perceived during the day. Flashes are an expression of the tension that the vitreous – altered because of age – exerts on the retina.
Both these changes are worthy of immediate eye check-up.
Finally, if the tissue with which we see, the retina, ages, you will go through senile macular degeneration, a disease that causes a progressive but dramatic loss of central vision.
In terms of check-ups after the age of 60, what is the recommended frequency for eye examinations? “The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends an eye examination every three years and, after the age of 70, every year,” recalls Dr. Camesasca.
Having an already compromised vision by a defect of refraction, such as myopia, can cause the examination frequency to change: “Given that the above mentioned intervals remain indicated, the severity of the myopia is the most important factor. In general, – the specialist points out – a severe myopia is considered when six or more diopters of myopic correction are needed. In these subjects the risk of retinal damage increases, cataract occurs earlier, and glaucoma is more frequent. In these cases, and especially if there is a family history of eye diseases, an annual check-up offers more protection”.
But after reaching a middle age, what are the symptoms that should point you towards an ophthalmologist? “The first concept to understand is that the eyes are two separate organs, each is an independent camera that contributes to the overall perception we call sight. It is therefore important to know the sight of the individual eye and, if symptoms appear, to understand which of the two eyes is involved. Symptoms that require doctors’ visits beyond recommended intervals are the reduction of mono or bilateral visual ability, the perception of distortion of straight lines, the appearance of flashes or “flying flies”. In these cases the examination should be performed as soon as possible,” concludes Dr. Camesasca.