Vision and how it can affect us as we age?

By Jacinta Sheedy, 11:51 am on

Changes to our vision

We have written about how our senses can be affected at any age, especially as we get older.  However, Vision loss can happen at any age. As people age, they often experience multiple changes in their overall health.

Amongst these are eye changes, and diseases that usually result in vision loss. Changes to our eyes happen because of disease, genetic factors, general wear and tear and environmental factors.

Ageing can bring a variety of changes in our eyes. For instance:

  • Over time the whites of the eyes, experience changes due to exposure to ultraviolet light
  • Yellowing or browning of the white of the eye due to fatty or cholesterol deposits in the conjunctiva
  • The mucous membrane that covers the eye is also related to ageing process and exposure to ultraviolet light
  • Changes also occur over a period in the conjunctiva, such as a thinning of the membrane
  • Dry eye, a disorder caused largely by reduced production of tears and reduced mucous from the conjunctiva
  • Decrease in the strength of the muscles in our eyes, and the muscles in our eyelids can become frailer over time
  • Reduced tone in the muscle that gives shape to our lens
  • Stiffening of the natural lens with age, causes the inability to see near objects, requiring the use of reading glasses

Eye disorders that frequently occur in older adults include:

  • Macular degeneration This term defines impairment to the pigmented oval in the centre of the retina resulting in reduced central vision and seeing fine detail.
  • Cataracts This is a clouding of the lens that covers the eye. These are thought to be caused by breakdown and deprivation of lens proteins and are considered a part of the normal ageing of the lens.
  • Diabetic retinopathy This is impairment to the retina resulting from diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is age related and the duration and control of blood glucose levels often determine whether diabetic retinopathy does or does not develop.
  • Glaucoma When glaucoma occurs, the optic nerve is progressively damaged resulting in loss of the peripheral visual field.

How these changes can affect daily life

These difficulties interfere with day to day living and partaking in activities. People with sensory loss may have difficulty carrying out independent activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing and shopping. These changes can become a risk of problems with mental health and social interaction.

One of the most disabling effects of vision impairment is decreased ability to communicate with others. People with low vision or legal blindness have difficulty lip reading or perceiving facial expression or gestures.


How to manage of sensory loss

  • Assessment by professionals who will recommend the appropriate management plan that may include the use of a visual aids
  • Speech pathologists also play a role, with programs including speech perception training or communication programs for clients and carers
  • Early identification and intervention can help those with vision and loss, so the effects of these sensory losses can be minimised, improving their quality of life

For more information on how to adapt to vision loss for your loved one, call 07 3314 2575 and stay tuned in the coming weeks for more blogs about each of these senses.

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