World Health Day: Eye care tips for elderly, senior citizens

Dr Sandeep ButtanUpdated: Thursday, April 07, 2022, 07:20 PM IST
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Adults over the age of 65 should be tested at least annually. | Freepik

You have walked the earth for almost six decades now, so you are definitely not brand new. But you are wise, mature and a walking encyclopaedia of life experiences. So, while you revel in all the greatness of ageing, you also feel a little feeble here and little twitch there. An ache here and a creak there and you realise that ageing also comes with diminishing physical attributes. And just like your creaking bones and not-so-supple skin, your sensory powers start getting weaker too.

People after the age of 65 are much more likely to develop visual impairment and that is just natural. But there are ways to slow down that process and take better care so that you can enjoy an overall sense of wellbeing and good health. Therefore, it is important for the elderly to be cautious when it comes to eye care and to take special precautions to protect their eyesight.

Common age-related visual or eye impairments are cataracts, presbyopia, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, reduced pupil size, dry eyes etc. According to the WHO, the majority of people with vision impairment and blindness are over the age of 50 years; however, vision loss can affect people of all ages.

A lot of those visual impairments can be avoided. The prevalence of vision impairment is usually high in low- and middle-income regions where healthcare is less a priority over other life situations. Population growth and ageing are also some of the reasons that increase the numbers of vision impairment. While cataract is more common in low- and middle-income regions of the world, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration are ore common in high income countries. Vision impairment affects lives, generations and quality of day to day living too.

Here are some of the best eye care tips for the elderly:

1. Check your eyes regularly

Frequent eye examinations are the surest way to identify and treat vision problems before it's too late. Adults over the age of 65 should be tested at least annually.

Systemic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and atherosclerosis are not only associated with cardiovascular disease, but also increase the risk of loss of vision due to their effects on the blood vessels of the eye.

2. Food for eyes

A low-fat diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains is suitable for the whole body, including the eyes. Food rich in vitamin A, such as carrots, papayas, mangoes, pumpkins, and other orange fruits and vegetables, should be consumed on a regular basis. Greens and Fish are chock-full of vision loving nutrients that will do you a world of goodness. Avocadoes, nuts, seeds and olive oil are also great sources of omega-3 fatty acids that are beneficial to your eyes.

3. Exercise

Exercise isn't just good for your waistline. It also reduces the risk of visual impairment due to increased blood flow in the arteries.

4. Quit smoking and alcohol consumption

Smoking increases the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Avoid smoking and inhalation of indirect smoking. Excessive prolonged drinking habits can deteriorate your vision and eventually lead to loss of vision.

5. Wear sunglasses

Over exposure to the sun and UV light can be detrimental to your nature’s gift of vision. Prolonged sun exposure can cause retinal burning or even blindness in some cases. So be kind to yourself and get yourself a pair of really quality sunglasses

6. Keep a distance from the screen

Slaving in front of the computer may give you a higher chance of promotion, but does it really have to be at the cost of your vision? The rule of thumb is rule of thumb is to always position your computer screen or laptop around 20 to 24 inches away from your eyes

(Dr. Sandeep Buttan is Global Technical Lead - Eye Health ASIA at Sightsavers)

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