What Are the Most Common Causes of Vision Loss in Seniors?

Sunrise Senior Living  |  March 4, 2020
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Changes in vision are more common with aging. The need for eyeglasses increases as we age, especially readers, but a surprising number of other vision issues are also more prevalent. Research shows that one in three people will have some form of vision loss by the age of 65.

While some of the risk factors for vision loss are unavoidable, others aren’t. Learning what vision conditions are common among seniors is important. Being aware of the risk factors for senior vision loss and the warning signs for potential conditions is essential for prevention, early intervention, and treatment.

Vision Problems and Older Adults

Age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts, and detached retina are the most common vision issues older adults experience. Here’s what you should know about each one of these conditions:

1. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)

This condition occurs when a part of the retina known as the macula is damaged. AMD causes a loss of central vision, but peripheral vision typically remains unchanged. Unfortunately, there are no typical warning signs to indicate there is a problem. This is one reason why it’s important to see the eye doctor every year for an exam and screening.

Besides age, the risk factors for AMD include:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Smoking
  • High-fat diet
  • Family history of AMD
  • History of high blood pressure

2. Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness in adults over the age of 60. It happens when the optic nerve in the back of the eye is damaged.

Like other types of vision loss, the symptoms aren’t very obvious. Often a senior doesn’t realize there is a problem until the disease is advanced. Because glaucoma causes the pressure in the eye to change, an annual vision exam is the best way to detect it.

Here are the risk factors for glaucoma beyond age:

  • Family history of glaucoma
  • Being black, Asian, or Hispanic
  • Being extremely farsighted or nearsighted
  • Experiencing an eye trauma or previous eye surgery
  • Extensive use of corticosteroid medications, especially eye drops

While glaucoma can’t be cured, if caught early it may be controlled with ongoing treatment.

3. Cataracts

This condition causes cloudy vision and can make daily activities more difficult to complete. Driving, reading, and even watching television are tough. While many people know what cataracts are, they may underestimate how important it is to see a doctor. Left untreated, cataracts can seriously impact vision.

Besides getting older, here are risk factors that can contribute to cataracts:

  • Family history of cataracts
  • Previous eye injury
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure

The good news is that cataract surgery has become a relatively minor surgical procedure that can have a successful outcome.

4. Detached retina

As we age, our risk for experiencing a torn or detached retina increases. The condition can cause a sudden episode of blurry vision. Flashes in your line of vision or shadows in your peripheral vision are also warning signs.

Here are risk factors for a detached retina:

  • Nearsightedness
  • Family history
  • Previous eye injury
  • A detached retina in the other eye

Some medications can also put you at higher risk for a detached retina. It’s a condition not to ignore. If not treated quickly, a detached retina can lead to permanent blindness.

Vision Loss and Assisted Living

If you or an older adult you love have vision loss, it may be a struggle to remain independent. Many seniors have lived in the same home for decades. Older houses aren’t often designed to accommodate diminished vision. Stairs, bathtubs, and kitchens can all present safety hazards for those with a vision impairment.

One solution to consider is moving to an assisted living community. The supportive design of the community combined with the services and amenities make it an environment that supports success for those suffering from vision problems. Call the Sunrise community nearest you to learn more today!


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