A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting in a restaurant when I noticed five people at one table passing around one pair of glasses. Each person stuck the glasses on his or her nose, read the menu and then passed them along to the next person. That seemed to work well for everyone except one gentleman, who joked about needing longer arms — even after the glasses were perched on his nose. The lady to his right — the owner of the glasses — made a comment about it being a known fact that arms get much shorter after you reach age 45, and everyone laughed.
Like those five people, many baby boomers now are discovering they are losing the ability to do things the way they used to, including the ability to read fine print. This causes them to have to hold small items at arm’s length to view them clearly. Called presbyopia, this condition occurs as the eyes gradually lose their ability to focus on objects in close range. A normal result of aging, it affects most people over the age of 40 and nearly everybody over the age of 51, according to the American Optometric Association’s website, www.aoa.org.
Our vision changes naturally throughout our lives. Examples of normal changes that occur with age are:
• Your eyes need more light to see
• It becomes harder to tell the difference between some colors, particularly shades of blue and green
• It becomes more difficult to focus on things that are near
• Adjusting to glare and darkness can become more troublesome
Prevention is an important aspect of health care, especially when targeting age-related eye disease that may affect sight. Many Americans who lose their sight each year go blind needlessly. Eye screening does not replace a professional eye examination, but it can help identify individuals who are at risk for eye disease. Finding eye disease in its early, treatable stages is very important since this can save sight, and we rely on sight more than any other sense to enjoy life to its fullest.
The leading causes of blindness likely will increase in coming years as the nation’s baby boomers grow older. Macular degeneration will continue to be the leading cause of blindness, according to www.macular.org, and the total cases of glaucoma are expected to double, according to www.neec.com.
Diseases like macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy are not examples of normal changes that occur with age but are diseases that may affect sight. The only way to know whether you have a potentially dangerous disease is to see an eye doctor and plan routine examinations.
It also is very important to regularly visit an eye-care professional even before any visual symptoms appear.
Even if you’re healthy or you don’t think you’re at risk for an eye-related illness, you should still scheduled an eye examination and pupil dilation with an eye-care specialist at least once a year. This goes for adults and children.
Ratcliffe is a consultant to the Coastal Health District. You can call her at 876-6399.
Editor’s note: Information in this column has been published in past editions of the Courier.