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How Age-Related Night Vision Problems Affect Driving

by Health News

People in their 50s, 60s, and 70s are more active than ever, which means record numbers of seniors are taking to the roadways.  While maintaining an active lifestyle in later years is definitely a good thing, vision changes that come with aging can impair driving, especially at night.  Statistics show that diminished night vision can be a serious hazard when it comes to traffic accidents, but learning how night vision problems affect driving can help.

Night vision problems begin to develop gradually as people age.

Aging and the Development of Night Vision Problems

As people age, pupils begin to shrink, which means they don't dilate as much in fading light or darkness.  This lowers the amount of light that enters the eye, which can have an effect similar to wearing sunglasses at night. 

Aging also affects the cornea and lens within the eye.  Overall vision becomes less clear and light scatters inside the eye, increasing glare.  Contrast sensitivity, or the ability to detect slight differences in brightness, also deteriorates as people get older.

Research published in Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science showed that some people develop optical imperfections called higher-order aberrations as they age.  Unfortunately, these imperfections reduce visual acuity, particularly at night, and they cannot be corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses. 

Related:  Antioxidants and Vision Health: Three Factors that Could Affect Your Vision

The Failure of Eye Testing

Often, the decline in vision for aging individuals is so gradual that they don't notice it.  According to the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration, older people may test well at the DMV or at the eye doctor's office, but still struggle with night vision problems.  Dimming light or darkness reduces vision for traffic signs, cars, and pedestrians. 

Additional Visual Problems that Come with Aging

While all seniors experience certain optical changes, some people develop additional conditions that can contribute to night vision problems.  According to the Vision Council, one third of Americans over the age of 40 suffer from age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, or cataracts.  

Management and Prevention of Age-Related Vision Problems

When it comes to staying safe while driving, the following tips can help aging individuals:

  • Reduce speed and limit driving to daytime hours.
  • Use extra caution at intersections, particularly when making a left turn.
  • Scan from side-to-side slightly while driving to compensate for reduced peripheral vision.
  • Avoid eyeglasses and sunglasses with wide frames that can restrict peripheral vision.
  • Participate in a driving course for seniors.

While some optical changes are an inevitable part of aging, people can reduce risks for developing serious eye problems by scheduling regular eye exams and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  A nutritious diet and eye vitamins may help reduce risks for certain eye conditions.

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Causes of Sudden Blurred Vision

by Institute for Vibrant Living

The onset of sudden blurred vision can be alarming. There are several reasons you might experience blurry vision that seem to come out of nowhere. Sometimes it is a harmless symptom, but more than likely it is the sign of a more serious medical condition.

Sudden blurred vision, what you need to know

Non-emergency Reasons For Blurred Vision

Conjunctivitis

If you go to bed with eyes that are a little itchy and watery then wake up with blurry vision and crusty mucus in your eyelashes, you most likely have a minor eye infection known as conjunctivitis or pink eye. It’s very common in children because they touch their face and eyes frequently, and they don’t wash their hands thoroughly or regularly.  This can spread easily when kids are in close proximity to one another like at school.

If you get pink eye, gently clear away the mucous and crust over your eyes with a warm damp washcloth. This will help clear your vision. Then call your doctor for a prescription of antibiotic eye drops.  After a few drops your eyes should begin to clear. Be sure to administer the entire dose of drops to both eyes (even if only one is infected) for as long as directed by your doctor.  Make sure to not touch the applicator to your eye, as this could easily spread it from the infected eye to the non-infected eye.

Related:  Early Detection: How to Avoid Glaucoma

Tunnel-Vision

This usually happens when you quickly rise from a prone or sitting position, and it seems like a black haze is settling over your eyes.  This is most likely caused by a temporary drop in blood pressure called Orthostatic Hypotension. It causes vision to blur or blacken to a narrow point of vision or a momentary complete loss of vision.  It’s also called a head rush and can be accompanied by dizziness.  The best thing to do when it occurs is to gently sit down or to hold on to something stable until the feeling passes.  If it happens frequently, have your blood pressure checked.

Ocular Migraines or Migraine Headaches

Ocular migraines are a temporary visual disturbance that can cause sudden blurred vision, then temporary loss of vision completely in both eyes.  They are most common among people who suffer migraine headaches.  They can be alarming, but do not result in any damage to the eye or cause permanent vision loss.

Medical Emergency Blurred Vision

Retina Detachment

Sudden, blurry vision and excessive eye floaters that appear with flashes of light are symptoms of a detached retina.  This is a serious condition and you should seek medical attention immediately to avoid permanent damage to the eye and permanent vision loss.

Head Injury

Any blow to the head that causes blurred vision is serious and you should seek medical attention immediately.  A concussion is a serious brain injury and often causes blurred vision.

Stoke or Brain Hemorrhage

If you have sudden blurred vision along with other stroke symptoms like loss of sensation in one or both limbs, the inability to speak or slurred speech, dizziness or nausea, call 911 and get to the hospital immediately. These symptoms could also be the result of a brain hemorrhage and require emergency medical care.

Corneal Abrasion

Damage to the eye from a blow or foreign object can scratch the cornea and caused sudden blurred vision. You should seek treatment right away to prevent infection and causing permanent vision loss. 

 

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Early Detection: How To Avoid Glaucoma

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Did you know that more than 2.7 million Americans aged 40 years and older are affected by glaucoma, a leading cause of irreversible blindness? Amazingly, only half of those affected even know they have the disease.

Glaucoma has no noticeable symptoms in its early stages. Vision loss happens so gradually that patients are often unaware of it until their vision has already been compromised.

How To Avoid Glaucoma

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the best way to avoid glaucoma and related blindness is by having routine, comprehensive eye exams.

Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of glaucoma and happens when tissue in the eye becomes less efficient at draining fluid. As this happens, eye pressure - also known as intraocular pressure - rises, causing irreversible damage to the optic nerve.

Without proper treatment to prevent the nerve damage, open-angle glaucoma patients usually lose their peripheral vision first. Eventually, they may go completely blind.

Fortunately, you can avoid vision loss from glaucoma with early detection and medical intervention.

All adults need to have a baseline, comprehensive dilated eye exam at least by age 40, which is when early signs of disease and changes in vision may start to happen. The exam, which includes an eye pressure check, may also require a so-called ‘visual field examination’.

For seniors age 65 and older, experts recommend a comprehensive eye exam every 1-2 years, or as directed by an ophthalmologist. Also, some people are at greater risk for developing glaucoma and may need to see their ophthalmologist more frequently.

Risk factors for glaucoma include:

  • Eye pressure level
  • Older age
  • Family history of glaucoma
  • African ancestry or Latino/ Hispanic ethnicity
  • Thinner central cornea - the clear, front part of the eye covering the pupil and colored iris
  • Low blood pressure (BP)
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Myopia
  • Genetic mutations

Many patients with risk factors for glaucoma don’t know about their risk until it is too late. Sadly, their lives would be completely different if they had known of their risk and taken action to have a comprehensive eye exam sooner - because once vision is lost to glaucoma, it cannot be restored.

So if you’re over 40 years old, isn’t it time you got a comprehensive eye exam as soon as possible?

Source: Early Detection: How to Avoid Glaucoma.