VISION | Have your eyes checked by an optometrist once a year
People with vision loss are at twice the risk of falls and premature death and four times the risk of serious hip fractures.
Good vision can reduce your risk of falling. But, as most people age, their vision needs change. That’s why getting expert care from a doctor of optometry is critical.
At age 65 and older, you should have a comprehensive eye exam at least once a year. That’s because adults aged 65 or older are at a higher risk for developing a number of eye conditions and diseases that can impair your sight, thus increasing the likelihood of a fall.
Many of the conditions that cause vision loss are symptomless, and can best be detected with an eye exam by a doctor of optometry.
The most common causes of vision impairment among older people are:
- Presbyopia: a normal aging change in which the crystalline lens of your eye loses its elasticity and flexibility. This results in an inability to focus on close objects. Some corrective lenses used to treat presbyopia may blur the inferior field of vision and impair depth perception when walking or using stairs, which can increase the risk of falls. For some, single lens glasses have been found to reduce the risk of falls for those suffering from presbyopia.
- Cataracts: distorted or cloudy vision caused by the lens inside the eye losing its transparency over time. Cataracts can cause generalized blurry vision and glaring of bright lights. This increases the risk of running into objects and limits the ability to drive at night.
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD): a disease that results in deterioration of the retina, causing loss of central vision, distortion of straight lines, impairment of colour vision, and difficulty recognizing faces. These deficits limit activities of daily living and cause problems with balance that contribute to fall risk. One million Canadians have some form of AMD, which usually affects people over 50. AMD has a strong genetic link, and people who smoke have up to four times higher risk of developing it.
- Diabetic Retinopathy: a weakening or swelling of the tiny blood vessels in the retina of your eye, and the growth of new blood vessels resulting in blood leakage and other changes. Most vision loss from diabetic retinopathy can be avoided by early detection and treatment.
- Glaucoma: commonly referred to as a “silent thief of sight” that often has no symptoms until significant damage has occurred. Vision loss from glaucoma is preventable with early diagnosis and treatment, yet glaucoma remains the second leading cause of vision loss in Canadians over 65. It is most commonly caused by elevated pressure within the eye, causing progressive damage to the optic nerve and loss of peripheral vision. More than 250,000 Canadians live with glaucoma, yet only half are aware they have the disease.