As much as we like to boast that our minds stay sharp as we get older, the same cannot be said for our bodies, especially our eyes. Changes in color perception, the need for more light, and difficulty reading from a distance are common challenges that come with age, according to Dr. Vivienne Velasco of iFocus Vision Center.

Worse, age and other factors often contribute to eye diseases that pose a far greater risk to our sight.

“Early detection is the key to preserving your vision as you get older,” Dr. Velasco explains. “While some problems are unavoidable, eye diseases are preventable and treatable, which make a comprehensive dilated eye examall the more important.”

Here are four of the most common age-related eye diseases and how they affect your vision.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration

The most common cause of irreversible vision loss for people over the age of 60, Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) can cause blurry vision, sensitivity to glare, reduced color vision, and dark or whiteout areas that appear in the center of your vision. ARMD occurs when the macula– a small portion of the retina – is damaged. There are two types of ARMD: dry and wet, or “exudative.” The former is the most common variety, occurring in about 80 percent of patients, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Dry ARMD develops slowly, caused by buildup of waste products called drusen that can form within the macula and distort vision. Wet ARMD occurs when blood vessels growing under the macula leak and create blind spots in your vision. This causes rapid vision loss, which can be treated with injections in the eye. Once someone develops wet ARMD, it is very hard to treat and even with injections it can cause permanent vision loss.

In addition to undergoing an annual comprehensive eye exam, Dr. Velasco recommends changes in lifestyle to prevent the onset of ARMD.

“Quitting smoking, making healthy changes to your diet, wearing UV pr0tection, and losing weight can all lower your risk,” she says. “If your family has a history of ARMD, that also increases your chances, so you’ll want to know those facts before you come in for an eye exam.”

Cataract

Cataracts are age related and hereditary eye disease, and they cause a clouding in the lens of the eye which reduces your ability to see. The condition often occurs in patients over 50, although young people, babies included, have been known to develop cataracts.

Cataracts are correctable via surgery, but just like ARMD, a healthy lifestyle can reduce your risk.

“The importance of wearing sunglasses to block out harmful ultraviolet radiation cannot be overstated,” Dr. Velasco says. “This is a serious risk factor, especially for Las Vegans who get more sunshine than most people.”

Diabetic Retinopathy

The metabolism we all enjoy as teenagers and 20-somethings will continue to slow as we get older, and with weight gain comes the increased risk of diabetes – a major threat to our vision. Though it sounds like a medical procedure, Diabetic Retinopathy is a condition that can cause blurred vision, loss of color vision, the appearance of dark spots in your vision, and even total vision loss.

Diabetic Retinopathy is caused by high blood sugar, which leads to damaged blood vessels in the retina. The eye disease, which affects those with diabetes, progresses in four stages, and risk increases with age.

Like other diabetic eye diseases, an action plan to prevent or treat diabetes can help preserve your sight.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma, unlike other diseases, can steal your vision gradually without you noticing. If diagnosed early enough, Dr. Velasco can help you control the disease’s progression with little or no further vision loss. But if left untreated, Glaucoma will rob you of your peripheral vision, leading to blindness.

There are two types of Glaucoma:

Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma develops gradually and painlessly. Since there are no early warning signs, it can slowly destroy your vision without your knowing it. The first indication may only occur after some considerable vision loss.

Acute Angle Closure Glaucoma results from a sudden blockage of the drainage channels within your eye, causes a rapid build-up of pressure inside your eye accompanied by blurred vision, the appearance of colored rings around lights, and, sometimes, extreme pain or redness in the eyes.Glaucoma cannot be prevented, but early detection and treatment can control glaucoma and reduce the chances of damage to the eye and a loss of sight.

Dr. Velasco recommends a test for Glaucoma every year.

“There are no symptoms of glaucoma until it’s too late. This is why a yearly comprehensive eye exam is so important to detect early signs of this disease,” she says.

To schedule your comprehensive eye exam, contact Dr. Velasco at 702-473-5660 or book an appointment online via the iFocus Vision Center website.