Eye Diseases, Vision and Eye Care

The most common eye diseases in people over age 50 are cataracts, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy. Fortunately, if you have one of these eye disorders and are treated early enough, the progression of disease can often be slowed or even halted, helping you return to daily activities such as driving, grocery shopping, reading, and performing household tasks. In fact, more than 80% of the 14 million Americans over age 12 with vision impairment could be helped by corrective lenses. In addition to medication and surgery, you can take steps on your own to make it easier to live with an eye disorder. An array of low-vision aids also is available.

Because most eye disorders cause no symptoms in their early stages, many people are unaware when one first develops. That's why periodic visits to an eye-care specialist are crucial to detect conditions early enough to allow for effective treatment. Even people who are aware of a problem may not see an eye-care specialist as often as they should. Findings from the National Health Interview Survey show that 40% of adults with severe visual impairment and 50% of those with at least some vision impairment reported that they had not seen an eye-care specialist in the previous 12 months. The survey also found that nearly 50% of people over age 65 with no known visual impairments had failed to see an optometrist or ophthalmologist in the previous year.

But regular eye checkups are particularly important if you are over age 65, because advancing age is associated with the development of many serious eye conditions, such as glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and cataracts. Regular checkups are also important if you have any risk factors—especially diabetes—for a serious eye disease or if you are in fair or poor general health.

Originally published in The Johns Hopkins White Papers: Vision (2011)

Written By:
Susan B. Bressler, M.D.
Julia G. Levy Professor of Ophthalmology
Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Harry A. Quigley, M.D.
A. Edward Maumenee Professor of Ophthalmology
Director, the Glaucoma Service and the Dana Center for Preventive Ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins Hospital

Oliver D. Schein, M.D., M.P.H.
Burton E. Grossman Professor of Opthalmology and Vice-Chair for Quality and Safety, Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins Hospital
Joint Appointee, Department of Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at HealthCommunities.com

Published: 24 Feb 2011

Last Modified: 06 Oct 2011