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Seniors and Eye Health

Useful Information for Seniors about their Eye Health

Doctors of optometry recommend seniors have an annual eye exam. If you are 65+, your eye exam is covered by Alberta Health*.

As most people age, their vision needs change. Complications can arise and getting expert care from a doctor of optometry is critical.

Common Eye Problems

Your eyes are the windows to your overall health, and an eye exam can also uncover underlying, and sometimes life-threatening, health issues. Early detection is always important in treating eye disease and health issues.

The most common eye problems among seniors include:

  • Presbyopia is a natural effect of aging, usually occurring after the age of 40, in which the ability to focus on close objects decreases over time. It can cause headaches, blurred vision, tired eyes and the need for more light. This can be corrected with glasses or contact lenses.
  • Cataracts exist when the normally clear lens within your eye becomes cloudy and opaque. Cataracts are a function of aging and are most often found in people over the age of 60, although they are occasionally found in younger people, including newborns,
  • Diabetes and its complications can affect many parts of the eye, and can cause changes in vision. Detection during an eye exam is often the first indication that a person may have the disease, or that a person with diabetes does not have adequate blood sugar control. The most serious eye problem associated with diabetes is diabetic retinopathy.
  • Macular degeneration affects the macula-the central most part of the retina. It causes the centre of your vision to blur or distort while the side or peripheral vision remains unaffected. It is generally related to the aging process, and is the leading cause of blindness in North American adults over the age of 55. While there is no cure, early detection and prevention measures can delay or reduce vision loss.
  • Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in Canada. It is a progressive disease that most frequently occurs in individuals over the age of 40, with the risk of the disease increasing with age. There is a greater risk of developing glaucoma for people with diabetes, high blood pressure, a history of eye injuries or a family history of glaucoma.

Falls Prevention

Falls are the leading cause of serious injuries among seniors, and seniors with low vision are more than twice as likely to fall. This is why it's important to visit a doctor of optometry annually for an eye exam. Alberta Health covers the cost of annual eye exams for Albertans 65+,

As most people age, their vision needs change. Some changes that you may notice include:

  • Identifying objects is more challenging, especially at night.
  • Judging distance is more difficult.
  • Everyday tasks like reading take more effort or require glasses.
  • Colours are less bright and the contrast between colours is less noticeable.
  • Visual fields begin to narrow, which may lead to challenges with driving.
  • Fewer tears are produced, leading to burning or stinging dry eyes.

Here are some actions you can take to improve and protect your vision and prevent falls:

  • Use high wattage light bulbs.
  • Use nightlights or motion sensors in the bathroom and hallways.
  • Wear sunglasses, even in the winter.
  • Mark the edge of stairs with coloured paint or treads.
  • Keep the lighting similar in every room.
  • Speak with your doctor of optometry about multifocal lenses

Discuss any changes to your eyes or vision with your optometrist. Getting expert care from a doctor of optometry is crucial for preserving sight, preventing falls and protecting overall health.

Eye Infections, Injuries & Monitoring Eye Disease

All Albertans are covered by Alberta Health* for medically necessary and urgent care visits to their eye doctor. Doctors of optometry have the proper knowledge, tools and equipment necessary to diagnose, treat or refer to a specialist, if needed.

This includes things, such as:

  • eye infections or injuries
  • foreign objects in the eyes
  • sudden changes in vision .
  • monitoring for diabetes issues,
  • glaucoma and retinal disease
  • post-operative care for cataract patients

You do not need a referral. Discuss your eye problem with the doctor of optometry prior to your appointment to ensure you understand what is covered. Most clinics keep a few daily appointments available for these services.

Protecting Your Eyes from the Sun

Protecting your eyes from ultraviolet (UV) radiation is just as important as putting on sunscreen to protect your skin, and it is an issue through every season of the year. The glare from snow can be just as harmful as the glare from water. Many age-related eye diseases may be partially caused by UV exposure throughout your life.

Speak to your doctor of optometry about your best options. In addition to appropriate sunglasses, wearing a wide-brimmed hat or baseball cap can provide further protection.

*Check with your doctor of optometry prior to your appointment to determine if there are any additional costs.