Loss of vision is one of the most common conditions experienced by older adults. More than 4.2 million Americans age 40 and older are legally blind or have low vision (CDC, n.d.). Common age-related eye diseases include cataracts, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy. Ancestry, genetics, and ethnicity can influence a person’s risk for developing eye diseases. Asian Americans are at higher risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and cataracts (Apeles & Shin, 2016).
Eye Diseases and Disorders (National Institute on Aging, n.d.)
Cataracts are cloudy areas in the eye’s lens that cause blurry or hazy vision. Sometimes, cataracts may not affect eyesight. Other times, they can become large and reduce vision, so cataract surgery is needed to restore good vision. Your eye doctor should watch for changes over time to determine if surgery is needed.
Glaucoma occurs from excess fluid pressure inside the eye. Without treatment, glaucoma can lead to vision loss and blindness. Glaucoma can be treated with prescription eye drops, lasers, or surgery. In addition, getting yearly dilated eye exams can help find glaucoma early.
Normal tension glaucoma (NGT) is a type of glaucoma that occurs even though eye pressure is not elevated. People of Japanese ancestry are at higher risk of developing NGT (Glaucoma Research Foundation, n.d.)
Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
AMD is an eye disease that blurs central vision used in activities such as reading and driving. AMD is the leading cause of vision loss for people ages 50 and older. Most AMD does not cause complete blindness but can affect your ability to see faces, drive, or look closely at things.
Diabetic retinopathy is a retinal disorder that can cause blindness and may occur if you have diabetes. There are often no obvious warning signs of diabetic retinopathy, and it typically develops slowly. In order to prevent or slow diabetic retinopathy, getting annual dilated eye exams and keeping blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol under control are important.
Protect Your Eyesight (National Institute on Aging, n.d.)
There are several ways you can prevent or manage the eye disorders and diseases mentioned above:
- Regularly get your eyes checked by an ophthalmologist or optometrist.
- Maintain regular appointments with your primary care physician to monitor your blood pressure and diabetes.
- Protect your eyes from harmful UV sunlight by wearing hats or sunglasses.
- Avoid smoking.
- Eat healthy and exercise regularly.
- Control your blood pressure and diabetes.
- Read the Diabetes fact sheet here.
- Practice the 20-20-20 rule.
- For every 20 minutes you are looking at a screen, take a 20 second break to look at something 20 feet away. This helps to relax the eye muscles.
Low Vision Management (Turbert & Gudgel, 2020).
Different techniques and devices can be used to see better if you have low vision:
- Improve Lighting
- Turn on lights or lamps to see better. Consider using higher-watt light bulbs or adding more lighting in lower-lit areas.
- Reduce Glare
- Adjust lights to reduce glare and improve vision. Cover shiny or reflective surfaces. When outside, shield your eyes using hats, visors, or sunglasses.
- Wear Glasses
- Make sure your glasses prescription is up to date and adjusted to your vision.
- Magnifying Devices
- Spectacles, standing magnifiers, or hand-held magnifiers can be used to get a close-up look at things. These can be used for reading and other close-up tasks. Some of these devices may also come with built-in lights.
- Electronic Devices
- Audio books and electronic books allow you to listen to text that is read aloud.
- Electronic books, smartphones, tablets, and computers have settings that can increase text size and adjust lighting or brightness.
Vision loss is common among older adults and people of Japanese ancestry are at higher risk of developing certain eye disorders and diseases. Keeping up with regular eye exams and general checkups can help catch these diseases early. There are many lifestyle changes that can be implemented to address eye health such as eating healthy, exercising, and managing diabetes. Lastly, there are different techniques and devices available to help people see if they have low vision.
Apeles, L. & Shin, H. (2016). Ethnicity and Eye Disease: A Risk Reminder for Asian-, African- and Latino-Americans. Retrieved from https://www.aao.org/eye-health/news/ethnicity-eye-disease-risk-reminder-asian-african-
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Common Eye Disorders and Diseases. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/visionhealth/basics/ced/index.html
Glaucoma Research Foundation. (n.d.). Glaucoma In Asian Populations. Retrieved from https://www.glaucoma.org/gleams/glaucoma-in-asian-populations.php#:~:text=Japanese%20populations%2C%20however%2C%20have%20a,factor%20for%20open%20angle%20glaucoma).
National Institute on Aging. (n.d.). Aging and Your Eyes. Retrieved from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/aging-and-your-eyes
Turbert, D. & Gudgel, D. (2020). Low Vision Assistive Devices. Retrieved from https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/low-vision-assistive-devices