“Aging” can be a nebulous term. Entering their 40s, many adults are unaware that in this mid-life* decade, gradually declining health is linked to diminishing whole-body function and risk of developing chronic disease. Just as sun-damaged skin shows the effects of aging on integumentary health, the decreasing capacity to focus on near- and far-range objects in mid-life marks the impact of the natural aging process on ocular health.
The American Association of Ophthalmology (AAO) is celebrating Healthy Aging Month in September by recognizing good eye health as an essential part of healthy lifelong practices. The AAO is spotlighting a multitude of early action steps the aging population can take to optimize outcomes in a life stage that is associated with onset of declining vision and ocular disease.
- Good nutrition and regular exercise are key to optimizing our health over a lifetime, right? Beginning in our 40s, comprehensive screenings like baseline eye exams, mammography (for women), and colonoscopy are built into mid-life health regimens to address the impact of aging on whole-body deterioration and development of chronic disease.
- By age 40, see an ophthalmologist for a baseline comprehensive eye exam. Even those with no known risk factors for developing eye disease should be screened to detect common ophthalmic diseases that can be treated early to prevent significant vision loss. In the 40+ age group, ophthalmologists screen for diseases such as glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy, as well as less common, but equally serious conditions like ocular tumors.
- Prepare for compromising eyesight “annoyances” that begin in mid-life. Presbyopia – the eye’s gradual loss of ability to focus on objects in close range as aging stiffens the lens — is more a mark of getting older than a treatable disease. Fortunately, the optical solution for this mid-life milestone is selecting that first pair of reading glasses.
- In advancing age, keep watch for signs of degenerative eye diseases that can lead to total blindness if left untreated. Glaucoma is the leading cause of total blindness in adults 60 and over. When blurry vision, blind spots, eye pain, rapid loss of vision and other telltale markers of glaucoma occur, make an appointment ASAP to see an Assessing the full extent of vision loss and areas of rapid deterioration allows an ophthalmologist to diagnose and treat glaucoma patients to slow the rate of vision loss before this disease progresses to a more damaging stage.
- Good eye health is for ALL ages! Individuals who are younger than 40 and have symptoms or risk factors for developing eye disease should not wait until the recommended age to have a comprehensive eye exam. Diabetes, high blood pressure and family history are several major risk factors for developing damaging eye disease. An ophthalmologist or a low vision specialist can address predisposition to ocular disease and outline types of early treatment that can significantly preserve a younger patient’s vision.
As a waning summer gives way to school-year and busier work calendars, September is an excellent month for all eye patients to schedule needed ophthalmology and optometry appointments. Whether it’s your first baseline screening, or that follow-up exam to address screening results, contact UNC Kittner Eye Center at 984-974-2020 to schedule your eye exam today!
Healthy Eyes = Healthy Lives.
* According to the latest data (2020) from the National Vital Statistics System, the average American life expectancy is 77.0