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The golden years of one's life bring in a multitude of new opportunities, but not without new challenges. One of the biggest hurdles that ageing people must cross is maintaining their overall physical health and consequently, their lifestyle. In this sense, caring for one's retinal health, or vision is of utmost importance. The process of ageing leaves a person vulnerable to multiple retinal diseases such as cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, visual distortion, and vision loss. Elderly people are more vulnerable to retinal diseases like age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and Diabetic Macular Edema (DME).
As reported in a population-based study aimed at understanding the penetration of retinal diseases in India, the prevalence of AMD in India ranges from 39.5-0.3 per cent. These proportions are likely to increase further over time with an increase in the proportion of ageing populations.
With such alarming statistics, it is only natural that one feels the need to ensure healthy ageing with good vision. The following care must be ensured by the elderly in order to develop better resistance to retinal diseases:
Conduct periodic retinal evaluations with an ophthalmologist can ensure better vision. It is also essential to adhere to treatments suggested by the professional, as this can control the progression of the disease. People with vision problems should wear medically prescribed glasses on a regular basis, to avoid strain on the eyes.
While hypertension has a direct correlation to cardiovascular diseases, it also has a negative impact on retinal health. Keep a check on diabetes, hypertension, and dyslipidemia. Flag-off any irregular metric readings to your doctor if and when they occur.
Patients can check their own vision in each eye by occluding the other eye and make sure that they are able to see clearly in both eyes.
It is important to have a balanced diet and exercise regularly. Proper nutrition for your eyes can help delay vision issues later in life and assist, to some degree, in restoring certain losses in acuity. Exercise also increases blood flow and nutrients to the whole body, including the retina and optic nerve.
Smoking is the largest modifiable risk factor for age-related macular degeneration. Smokers are at a higher risk of AMD than non-smokers three-fold. If you are over 80 and smoke, the risk of Age-related Macular Degeneration increases to 5.5 times.
In addition to the above, caregivers should take the seniors for regular retinal evaluations with an expert. They should also be able to manage micronutrient deficiencies among them, for systematic control of metabolic diseases.
(The article is contributed by Dr Ashraya Nayaka T.E., MBB, MS, Senior Consultant Vitreoretinal Surgeon, The Eye Foundation, Coimbatore)