It’s no secret that as we age, our body doesn’t work quite the way that it used to. That includes our vision — you might grow up with perfect 20/20 vision, then suddenly you notice that you’re holding the menu a little closer to read the lunch specials.
Luckily, most vision problems are easily fixed with a prescription for glasses or contacts. But not all remedies are that simple; that’s why it’s imperative that everyone get their eyes checked on a regular basis
There are many reasons and causes of vision loss and issues, impacting people around the world of all ages. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these are some of the most common:
If you or someone you know wears glasses, they probably have a refractive error in their eyes. The most common of eye problems, people with refractive errors are nearsighted, farsighted, or have astigmatism (their vision is distorted both up close and far away). With age, people can also develop presbyopia, or farsightedness as a result of aging. These issues can be solved with glasses, contact lenses, or surgery in some cases.
Someone may not need glasses for decades, but as they get older, notice that their vision is not as sharp as it used to be. Also known as age-related macular degeneration, this vision loss is the result of the macula in the retina thins over time and items look blurry. Although less common, it can also be caused by blood vessels growing behind the macula and damage it.
Another type of macular damage is pigmentary maculopathy, which has been linked to the interstitial cystitis drug, Elmiron. In this case, there are abnormalities in the capillaries and blood vessels, lesions under the macula, or the death of retinal epithelial cells. There have been about 100 cases against the drug company by patients whose vision was impaired or lost after taking the drug.
Cataracts form when the eye’s lens gets cloudy — it can make the person’s eyes appear milky. This is the leading cause of blindness in the world and it can happen at any age. Thankfully, cataracts can be removed, but healthcare barriers can make this difficult for many people.
In the United States, diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in American adults and usually affects both eyes. A complication of diabetes, this occurs when the retina’s blood vessels are damaged. When someone is diagnosed with diabetes, it’s important to control their blood sugar, blood pressure, and lipids to avoid diabetic retinopathy.
Glaucoma is a group of diseases that can damage the eye’s optic nerve and result in vision loss and blindness. Glaucoma occurs when the normal fluid pressure inside the eyes slowly rises. However, recent findings now show that glaucoma can occur with normal eye pressure. With early treatment, you can often protect your eyes against serious vision loss.
You probably know this as having a “lazy eye,” and it’s the most common vision impairment in kids. Amblyopia happens when the eye and the brain aren’t communicating properly, so the brain favors one eye over the other. This can lead to nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, or strabismus.
Another vision impairment you’ve probably heard of, this is when the eyes are imbalanced in their positioning, or being “cross-eyed.” In this case, the eyes have difficulty coordinating with one another and will look in different directions. This can impact depth perception.
So you know about the different visual impairments, but how often do you need to see a doctor to check your eyes? There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer, as it depends on your general eye health as well as your age. If you’re one of those lucky people who doesn’t have eye problems, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that you get your eyes checked:
If you do wear glasses, have a family history of eye problems, or are diagnosed with diabetes or other diseases that impact the eyes, it’s important to get checked more often.
Both an optometrist and ophthalmologist are qualified to conduct eye exams and prescribe glasses and/or contact lenses. However, an ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who is also able to practice medicine and do surgery.
Like any other visit with a doctor, it’s good to be prepared with your medical history before an exam. This includes allergies, medications, your family’s medical history, and any vision problems you’ve been experiencing.
While exams may vary depending on your age and eye health history, according to Mayo Clinic, these are some common eye exams:
If you or a loved one is experiencing vision loss after taking Elmiron, you may be eligible for compensation.
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