As retina specialists in the Sarasota and Manatee County area, we come into contact with people from all walks of life concerned about their vision as they age. Because age can be a contributing factor to several eye conditions, understanding how age affects our vision can provide opportunities to care for your eye health more effectively. As ophthalmologists, we know that early detection of eye disease is vital for protecting your vision. This is why making eye care part of your overall health routine is the best way to ease any age-related concerns and ensure your retina specialist can provide you with the best treatment options. To give yourself a headstart when it comes to monitoring age-related eye conditions, our Sarasota retina specialists are here with their insights on what you should know about age and your eye health. Age increases your risk of diseases such as Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) Even though most people know that eye disease is more common amongst older adults (generally aged 50 and upwards), there’s less understanding of the exact type of eye conditions age can increase your risk of the most. One such eye disease is Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD). The occurrence of AMD increases with age, with approximately 20-30 percent of persons over the age of 75 affected. AMD causes thinning and damage to the macula (the light-sensitive part of the retina) and can significantly impact your sight. There are two different types of AMD, both varying in severity: Dry AMD Dry AMD is the less severe form of AMD. Dry AMD generally occurs when the macula gets thinner and tiny protein deposits (called drusen) form underneath your retina. The symptoms of dry AMD include: \tDistorted vision and changes in color perception \tDifficulties seeing in the dark \tChanges in sensitivity to contrast In some cases, dry AMD goes unnoticed because of a lack of noticeable symptoms. This is why regular ophthalmologist visits are vital for early diagnosis. Wet AMD Affecting approximately 10-15 percent of those diagnosed with macular degeneration, wet AMD is caused by abnormal blood vessels leaking fluid (or blood) into the macula. Some common symptoms of wet AMD include: \tBlurred or distorted vision \tBlind spots in central vision \tNot being able to define details (even close-up) \tMissing words in a sentence when reading \tDistortion of straight lines \tIssues with glare Even though symptoms of wet AMD are more obvious than dry AMD, detection before symptoms present is the best way to protect your vision. Some other common eye conditions associated with age: \tMacular holes \tMacular edema \tGlaucoma \tRetinal artery occlusion \tRetinal vein occlusion \tMacular pucker \tCataracts \tRetinal detachment Note: For those with a family history of eye disease or other known health conditions such as diabetes, visits to a retina specialist become increasingly important as we age. Especially for diseases such as diabetic retinopathy, the earlier you spot the disease, the more help your ophthalmologist can offer. Age can increase the occurrence of ‘dry eyes’ and flashes/floaters Did you know that even dry eyes can be attributed to age? Despite many of us suffering from dry eyes in our lifetime, it’s particularly prevalent amongst the older generation. This is because older eyes tend to produce less tears as we age. This can be due to: \tCertain age-related medical conditions (e.g., rheumatoid arthritis) \tMedications \tVitamin deficiency \tOr just age in general! The symptoms of dry eye syndrome often include: \tRed eyes \tAn itchy or burning sensation in or around the eye area \tBlurred vision \tEyelid inflammation \tGeneral discomfort in the eye area Many patients present to our retina clinic in Sarasota believing that little can be done for dry eyes. Even though eye drops are the most common treatment for dry eyes, your ophthalmologist can in fact create an entire treatment plan to alleviate the symptoms of dry eyes long-term. Even if conditions such as dry eye syndrome come and go, patients should feel comfortable visiting their ophthalmologist to relieve symptoms as soon as they experience them. Age can weaken the muscle in your eyes and harden your lens We all know what our pupils are, but do you know what purpose your pupils serve? Don’t worry, most people don’t! Essentially, pupils control the amount of light that enters the eye and are controlled by muscles in the iris (dilator and sphincter muscles). This is why in bright light, your pupils will get smaller to prevent light from entering and in the dark, your pupils get larger to allow more light in. But how does this relate to age? Well, as we age, the muscles in our iris weaken. This can result in the pupil reducing in size and your eyes becoming less responsive in low light. If you notice yourself needing more light to read comfortably or see details you previously didn’t struggle with, this could be a sign of your eye muscles weakening. It can also be common for older generations to struggle with seeing things close up. This can be due to a condition known as presbyopia. Presbyopia is caused by a hardening of your eye's lens, generally considered a natural consequence of aging. As your lens becomes less flexible, it can no longer adjust itself to focus on close-up images. This often results in images appearing out of focus. While many eye-related issues are just a natural consequence of aging, it’s always best to seek advice from an ophthalmologist to ensure there are no underlying conditions to be concerned about. Note: Even for non-threatening conditions that are considered to be age-related, your ophthalmologist can still offer full treatment plans to improve your daily quality of life. Age alone is a perfectly valid reason to visit an ophthalmologist One of the most common issues we deal with at our Sarasota eye clinic is patients allowing conditions to go untreated because they don’t believe they fit the age criteria to see an ophthalmologist. The reality is, you can visit an ophthalmologist at any age, whether you have concerns about your vision or not. However, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recommends having regular baseline screenings with an ophthalmologist at age 40, and The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends annual eye exams for everyone over 18 considered to have risk factors (e.g. hereditary eye disease, diabetes etc). Additionally, it’s recommended that adults aged 18-64 have a complete eye exam at least every two years, regardless of age or risk factors. With early detection, so many minor and more advanced eye conditions can be treated by our team in Sarasota, with full treatment options available for patients of all ages. This is why we always ask our patients to spread the word to their friends and family that you don’t need to wait on something to be ‘wrong’ with your vision before scheduling an appointment with us. Your eye health is an important part of your overall health, something our retina specialists know only too well. How Retina Care Consultants in Sarasota, Florida can help: If you’re looking for a retina clinic in Sarasota or Manatee County, you’re in luck! Our retina specialists are some of the best in Florida, providing first-class care to patients for various eye-related conditions and diseases. With the ability to provide medical and surgical treatment to patients, our eye clinic in Sarasota is your best chance at catching any eye-related issues early and receiving the widest range of available treatment options. We’re currently taking on new patients, so to speak with a member of our team or schedule an appointment, you can contact us today.