Protect and preserve eyes

By Pamela Knudson

If you’ve noticed that it’s getting harder to focus on things up close as you’ve gotten older, you’re not alone.
With aging comes inevitable changes in vision, a local eye specialist says, but there are steps you can take to protect your eye health and possibly slow deterioration.
The most common vision problem in older adults is “presbyopia” which affects the eye’s ability to focus on near objects, says Dr. Mark Sczepanski, an ophthalmologist at the North Dakota Eye Clinic in Grand Forks. This is because “the lens gets larger and less pliable.”
Next comes the loss of “intermediate vision,” such as the ability to see computer images clearly, he says.
The second most common problem is “dry eye,” otherwise known as “tear film insufficiency, which affects people especially in this area and especially during the winter,” Sczepanski says.
“We hear over and over from our older patients that at first when they’re reading, everything’s OK. But the longer they read, words get blurry and they have to stop.”
Computers worsen the problem.
“If we’re just sitting and chatting, we blink about 16 times a minute,” he says, “but at a computer, we’re staring at the screen and blink about four times a minute.”
Another common complaint is seeing “floaters and flashes” in one’s vision, caused by a vitreous membrane detaching from the retina in the back of the eye.
“It’s more of a nuisance than anything,” Sczepanski says. People with diabetes who experience this should maximize their blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol control.
Those with diabetes are at risk for serious eye diseases, including retinopathy, which can lead to poor vision and even blindness.
“The longer the time you’ve had diabetes and the older you are, the higher the chance that you’re going to have diabetic retinopathy,” he says.
‘Big three’
Other vision troubles that require medical intervention by an ophthalmologist are cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration — conditions Sczepanski calls “the big three.”…….
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