TAKE CARE! SPOT THE EMERGENCY SIGNS

If you develop any of these problems, seek help immediately, if necessary by going to the Accident and Emergency department of a hospital or calling an ambulance.

  • Sudden loss of vision, or everything becoming suddenly dim or hazy.
  • Abrupt loss of vision on one side.
  • Vision loss like a curtain coming down in front of one eye.
  • Intermittent visual loss in one or both eyes lasting more than 5 minutes.
  • Sudden distortion of your central vision (the middle part of your visual field).
  • Eye symptoms accompanied by feeling generally unwell, especially if you also have a headache or tenderness in the temples.
  • A sudden shower of floaters and/or flashing lights.
  • Persistent severe pain in your eye.
  • Sudden blurred or double vision.
  • Swelling of the eye.
  • Irregular pupils.

  • OTHER CHANGES
    As well as becoming less flexible, your lenses become yellower and more opaque as you get older. Clouding of the lens may develop into a cataract. At the same time, your pupils gradually shrink, so less light can get into your eye, and light tends to scatter more, increasing the effect of glare. What does this mean? Well, generally speaking, you need a lot more light to see clearly than you did when you were younger – and it needs to be uniform lighting rather than sharp pools of light contrasting with deep shadows, such as from a spotlight (this is fine for doing tasks but shouldn’t be your only light source).

    Changes to the eye also reduce your peripheral vision, perception of colour and depth, and your ability to tell where one surface ends and another begins (contrast discrimination). It’s harder to see in dim light and to adapt to sudden changes in light levels. And if you are finding it harder to drive in the dark, you are not alone: night vision gets poorer with age. Here are some other changes to expect:
  • FLOATERS become more common, these are specks, cobwebby strings or shadows that drift across your field of vision, especially when you’re looking at a light, uniform background such as the sky. Floaters are due to bits of debris from the gel inside your eyeball, and they move when you move your eyes. They can be annoying but are usually quite harmless. However, if you get a sudden shower of floaters accompanied by flashes of light, seek medical attention urgently (it may be symptom of retinal detachment)
  • DRY EYES become more common. The flow of tear fluid – the film across the front of the eye that keeps it moist – reduces; there is also less oil in the fluid, so the film breaks up more easily. Women usually suffer more than men as the condition is linked to fluctuating hormone levels. It may cause irritation and itching, but can be readily relieved by using lubricating eyedrops (‘artificial tears’) or ointments.
  • INCREASED TEAR FLOW, the opposite problem to dry eyes, can also be an issue, and your eyes may be more sensitive to wind, light or sudden temperature changes. Increased eye watering can signal a problem that needs treatment, such as conjunctivitis or a blocked tear duct, so get your eyes checked if it persists.
  • IRRITATION OF THE EYELIDS Your eyelids may become extra sensitive and more prone to crusting, redness and inflammation (blepharitis). This is due to blockages in the tiny glands in your eyelid that help the tear film to spread across your eye, and can make your eyes feel sore and gritty. Sometimes a stye – a red, swollen pimple – appears at the lid margins. Strong sunlight or a smoky atmosphere may also increase irritation. Gently cleaning your lids with cotton wool soaked in warm water usually helps, and eye lubricants can ease irritation. In severe cases, or if the irritation doesn’t get better within two weeks, seek medical advice. You may need an antibiotic cream.

    AMD – AND HOW TO TACKEL IT
    Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of sight problems as you get older. In one study in Bristol, UK, of 934 men aged 65 to 83, 9.2 per cent developed early macular changes, and 0.5 per cent developed full-blown AMD, over 17 years.

    AMD occurs when the macula, the central area of your retina responsible for detailed vision, is damaged, causing blurring in the centre of your visual field and eventually a central blind spot. There are two forms. In dry AMD, yellow deposits called drusen build up in the retina and blood vessels become brittle, damaging the macula. in wet AMD, new blood vessels grow and leak beneath the macula, causing scar tissue. Wet AMD - which accounts for about 10 percent of cases - is more serious and progresses more quickly.

    Once vision is lost in AMD, it cannot be regained, but as it affects only the central vision it never causes complete sight loss. People with AMD may have difficulty reading, driving or recognising faces , but can carry on with many day to day activities.

    you’re more likely to get AMD if you smoke, are long-sighted or have a family history of it, but there’s much you can do to reduce risk:
  • If you smoke, stop.
  • Wear sunglasses that block ultraviolet A and B rays in strong light. Or have photochromic lenses fitted to your ordinary glasses, which darken in sunlight (check they have UVA and UVB protection).
  • Keep your BMI within the healthy range.
  • Eat less saturated fat.
  • Have an eye-healthy die: eat plenty of fruit and veg (for antioxidant vitamins) and oily fish (for omega-3 fatty acids).
  • Exercise. Vigorous exercise cut the risk of AMD by up to 54 per cent in a study of 1,313 women aged 55 to 74; also eating healthily and not smoking reduced the risk by 71 per cent.

  • Act quickly
    If you spot the symptoms of AMD early, prompt action – mainly through dietary changes and stopping smoking – can help to slow any loss of vision. These are the most common signs:
  • Straight lines appear wavy.
  • Your central vision is blurred, causing difficulty reading fine print. The affected area slowly expands; a central dark spot may appear.
  • Colours may seem faded and increased light is needed to see.
  • TALK SUPPLEMENTS Ask your ophthalmologist about the Age-related Eye Disease Study (AREDS). It found that a combination of vitamin and mineral supplements led to a 25 per cent reduction over six years in the risk of dry AMD progressing to an advanced stage. Some ophthalmologists may now recommend supplements to match the AREDS formula. The components are – vitamin C: 500mg; beta carotene: 15mg; zinc: 80mg; copper: 2mg (added to prevent deficiency caused by zinc); and vitamin E: 400 IU. They should be taken only under medical supervision (vitamin E and zinc may have side effects), and should not be taken if you smoke (beta carotene as a supplement is associated with an increased risk of lung cancer in smokers).
    Treatment of wet AMD may involve medications such as Lucentis to prevent new vessels forming or photodynamic therapy, in which a light-activated drug is injected to destroy the vessels.

  • OTHER SIGHT RISKS
    your risk of serious eye condition increases as you age. but the damage is often limited by early treatment always seek medical attention for eye symptoms

    DID YOU KNOW?
    Smoking increase the likelihood of many eye-related diseases. It may treble your risk of macular degeneration a painless condition that eventually leads to loss of vision in the centre of the visual field – according to scientists Meanwhile, researchers at the University of found that smoking doubles the risk of uveitis (eye inflammation). Quitting can halt or even reverse the damage.

    DID YOU KNOW?
    Tears of emotion are chemically different from those produced when you get a speck of dust in your eye or if you peel an onion. Experts think emotional tears help to rid the body of stress chemicals.
  • GLAUCOMA Once you reach 40 (or earlier if you’re African or of African descent), your risk of glaucoma, a potentially sight-robbing condition, rises. High pressure in the eye is an important risk factor – this is what is treated because lowering eye pressure enough will help preserve the vision the patient has left. Glaucoma can run in families and causes few or no symptoms early on, but it’s readily detected during an eye test. Otherwise, you may be unaware of a problem until you start to lose your side vision. Your central vision is affected only in the advanced stages.
  • REPTINOPATHY This refers to damage to the retina. In people with diabetes, high blood sugar levels affect blood vessels in the retina, which become swollen and leaky, leading to diabetic retinopathy. Sometimes new, fragile blood vessels proliferate. Eventually this causes patchy vision loss, blurring, dark spots or shadows and sometimes pain, but symptoms may not be noticeable at first. The retinal changes can be seen during an eye examination, and laser treatment can often stop any damage or slow its progress. If you have diabetes, you’re also at increased risk of cataracts and glaucoma, so it’s especially important to have regular eye tests.

  • What’s NEW
    ECCENTRIC VIEWING FOR AMD Losing your central vision due to macular damage forces you to use your peripheral vision. Eccentric vision is a technique that teaches you to use this residual vision more effectively to make everyday activities easier, including walking, reading, recognising faces and watching television. It is often combined with another technique called ‘steady eye’ for reading, in which you learn to keep your head and eyes still but move the page through the areas where your sight is clearest. Anyone with AMD or other major visual disabilities should ask their doctor for referral to a Low Vision Clinic. There they can be helped to make the best of their failing vision with eccentric viewing training and the most effective visual and reading aids.