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Handbook for successful ageing - 9.3.3 -


9.3.3 Most frequent eye diseases in old age

The eye is of fundamental importance to the absorption of stimuli from the environment. 80% of the information coming from our environment, and therefore also 80% of the stimuli which stimulate our brain and keep it fit, are absorbed with the eyes.

Therefore it is important to consult an eye specialist at the slightest deterioration of the strength of vision and (even) to make use of medical check-ups. Cataract

The cataract is a partly slow and partly fast-progressing dulling of the lenses, which can result in fading of eyesight. You can counter it by using an artificial lens. Following such an operation, you can hope to see well again if you do not discover that you suffer from another ailment. Undergo the operation as soon as the quality of your life is affected by the clouding of your vision, as your mental fitness declines (see preface). If you do not live alone and have the facility to be cared for at home during the initial days, an outpatient operation can be performed. Glaucoma

It is a skulking ailment which marginalizes the field of vision which you will notice only when you overlook a step or a sagging branch or recognize a vehicle approaching from the side very late. This limitation can be based on very high intraocular pressure, blood supply disorder, but also on other circumstances. People who smoke or suffer from diabetes are unfortunately considered as having a particular high risk. Since the intraocular pressure does not increase under all circumstances, the eye background should also be carefully examined. A limited field of vision that has already occurred is irreparable, but its advancement can in general be arrested with drugs.

Ensure that you get a preventive medical checkup done every two years when in your 40's and every year when in your 50's, unless your doctor thinks a longer interval would be sufficient. The need for this arises from the fact that the majority of people (5 - 6 million in Germany) suffer from glaucoma.

This skulking form should not be confused with acute glaucoma, which is accompanied by severe pain and sight loss. You should visit a doctor immediately in such a case.

Even children can suffer from glaucoma already. Retinal detachment

Detachment of the retina refers to the detachment of the retina from its base, the choroid. That is what the detachment of the retina of its base, the choroid coat, is called. The detachment of the retina can also result in loss of vision. If you see thunderbolts, points, filaments or spider webs without reason, you should visit a doctor immediately! Diabetic retinopathy

This is the effect of diabetes on the eye with changes to the vessels, hemorrhages, deposits and oedema (refer to the article about "diabetic retinopathy" on How successful you are in preventing this ailment depends on how healthy your food intake is (refer to 1 and 2), how much exercise you get (refer to 3) in order to avoid obesity, and how regularly you check your average blood-sugar level every three months. In any case you should contact your eye specialist as soon as you learn that you suffer from diabetes! The earlier he/she notices that your retina is beginning to change, the more specifically he/she can help you to stop the loss of sight. If your sight reduces to such an extent that you are unable to measure your own blood-sugar levels and are unable to administer insulin to yourself, additional tips are available under 9.6.1. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)

The Macula is the position of best sight on the retina ("yellow patch"). MD is today the most widespread eye ailment among the elderly. It develops either very quickly ("damp") or gradually ("dry MD") and results in considerable sight loss at the center of the retina causing difficulties in reading, writing and recognizing faces. In an advanced stage, it becomes difficult to see the outlines and approaching vehicles from the periphery. In the case of the damp MD, an early start of treatment is very important. The dry MD cannot currently be treated. Lutein and Zeaxanthin in green vegetables, taking omega-3 fatty acids, wearing sunglasses and not smoking can however prevent this illness and also slow down its progress. Smoking is the second most important risk factor, right after smoking. Ocular infarction

The eye attack, also coloquially known as loss of sight, indicates a locking of one of the arteries supplying the optic nerves with blood. Lack of oxygen results in the damage of commissures, which results in a sudden deterioration in vision. In case of an accute loss of vision, contact an ophthalmologist immediately. Dry eyes

Dry eyes aren’t covered completely by the tear film. In most cases the reason for this is that the lachrymal glands don’t produce enough liquid or the liquid isn’t greasy enough, hence evaporates too fast. Sometimes diabetes or a thyroid disease cause dry eyes. Certain medicines like antidepressants, beta blockers or antihistamines can also disturb the production of tears. If your eye specialist can disqualify any illnesses or medicines as reasons for dry eyes, in most cases drops or gels with artificial tears from the pharmacy can help. If, however, you do not see any improvement after several days you should see an eye specialist. What to do when glasses do not suffice anymore? (What do you do if spectacles are no longer adequate?)

In such a case, please refer to section 9.6 till 9.8.





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