The Prevalence of Eye Diseases and Vision Problems among Elderly Patients in the USA

baby boomer reading

A rapidly growing share of the elderly population in the US is suffering from eye diseases and vision problems that make their activities of daily living difficult and in certain cases impossible.

In fact, by the age of 65, approximately every third person is suffering from some eye disease or vision problem in the US.

What is even more alarming is that this trend of eye problem in adults is expected to increase considerably as baby boomers continue to age.

According to experts, by 2030 the rate of vision problems will double along with America’s aging population.

This vision loss has an adverse impact on the overall health and wellness of older adults in several ways:

  • Increases the risk of accidental falls and fractures that lead to disability or death
  • Increases the risk of depression (of the visually impaired adult population, 57.2% are at the risk of developing mild or moderate depression as compared to 43.5% who are not suffering from vision loss) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Makes it difficult to identify medicines (medication is considered to the 5th leading cause of death among older adults in America) Business Week
  • Makes it difficult to accomplish the activities of daily living like bathing, dressing and walking (about 1.8 million older adults in America report some difficult in daily life due to their visual impairment) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
If eye problems in adults are not diagnosed and treated in time, the risk of partial or complete loss of vision increases significantly. So, American adults who want enjoy the colors of life for as long as they live must be aware of these common causes of eye conditions to be able to avoid them.
4 Common Causes of Eye Problems in Older Adults
Cataract
More than half of the US population aged 80 has a cataract or has undergone a cataract surgery

Source: http://www.afb.org

Cataract is the cloudy formation on the lens of the eye which disrupts the flow of light to the retina, adversely impacting the person’s vision. When the protein that makes up the lens starts to clump together, clouding begins. Initially a cataract affects just a small part. However, it starts hindering vision as the clouding grows, making it very difficult for a person to see clearly. As less and less light passes on to the retina, it eventually results in blurry vision.

Glaucoma
Glaucoma occurs more in people aged 60 and above.

Source: http://www.afb.org

Glaucoma is an eye condition with elevated pressure of fluid inside the eyes. This happens when the fluid aqueous humor is unable to drain out of the eyes and accumulates inside, resulting in increased pressure which in turn damages the optic nerve. This eye condition can affect anyone but certain factors make people more vulnerable to glaucoma and these factors include age, high intraocular pressure and a family history of glaucoma.

Diabetic Retinopathy
Diabetes sufferers are at an increased risk of diabetic retinopathy.

Source: http://www.afb.org

The retina comprises a cluster of blood vessels and any changes in this cluster can trigger diabetic retinopathy which is a leading cause of blindness among older adults in the US.

If you’ve had diabetes for a long time period, you are at an increased risk of diabetic retinopathy. However, the risk of this eye condition can be greatly reduced if you strictly monitor your blood sugar levels and taking dilated eye tests once every year.

Age-related Macular Degeneration 
AMD affected more than 1.7 million US citizens in 2004 and this number is expected to jump to 3 million by the 2020.

Source: http://www.afb.org

Age-related macular degeneration affects central vision which in turn adversely impacts daily activities like driving, reading and writing. AMD can be further divided into two main types – dry macular degeneration and wet macular degeneration.

While dry macular degeneration occurs due to the deterioration of light sensitive cells, wet macular degeneration is marked by the growth of blood vessels underneath the retina where the leakage of blood and fluid create a big blind spot across the central field of vision.

Annual eye check-ups are essential for avoiding or delaying eye diseases and eye conditions, especially if you are over age 65 or suffering from diabetes or if have a family history of AMD or glaucoma. A vision screening can help diagnose underlying eye conditions, increasing your chances of getting the right treatment at the right time and restoring as much of your vision as possible.

Aaron Barriga
Aaron Barriga

Author Bio: Aaron Barriga is the online marketing manager for Insight Vision Center. With a knack for understanding medical procedures, and an interest in eye and vision health, Aaron loves to share what he knows and what he learns. He blogs with a mission of informing readers about the latest eye care technology and other topics related to eye care and eye health. He loves collecting coasters from the different bars and restaurants he visits during his travels.

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