Eye Sight : Understanding Age-Related Eye Diseases

GLAUCOMA Glaucoma, the world's second largest cause of unnecessary blindness, slowly destroys eyesight through raised pressure within the eyeball. Sufferers experience no discomfort, which means that significant and lasting damage can occur before they notice any difference.

Those aged over 40 are particularly at risk, along with people of Afro-Caribbean descent or with a family history of glaucoma. Other risk factors include shortsightedness and medical conditions such as diabetes, poor circulation, migraine headaches or past eye injuries. However, if diagnosed early the condition can be managed effectively with simple eye drops.

PRESBYOPIA Presbyopia, meaning "old eye", is the loss of the eye's ability to focus on close objects.

Symptoms, such as reading a newspaper at arm's length, usually surface in your early forties.

Presbyopia is part of the ageing process and easily corrected with varifocals; spectacle lenses with no visible line, used to correct vision from distance to close-up viewing.

They have a gradual change in power from the top to the bottom, allowing you to see clearly at all distances.

These are not to be confused with bifocals, as they combine all distances in one lens, not just two.

CATARACTS Cataracts are common in over-60s.

The lens becomes opaque, blurring vision and even leading to loss of sight if left untreated.

In the early stages, the condition may cause nearsightedness and the reduction in perception of blue colours. Surgery is the most effective way to restore vision.

AMD Age-related macular degeneration, frequently referred to as AMD, occurs in older people.

The macula - the centre of the retina, used for detailed vision - thins and occasionally bleeds. This can lead to distortion or even loss of central vision.

The sufferer may also have trouble discerning colours. Peripheral vision remains unaffected but central vision loss is serious.

Early diagnosis and treatment are vital.

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