Harvard Health Letter

Fewer eyesight problems reported among older adults

Vision troubles are common as we age, but new research suggests that improved preventive behaviors and more effective treatments are actually reducing the number of eye health problems faced by older adults. A report in the June 8 online issue of Ophthalmology noted that the prevalence of functional visual impairment among people ages 65 and older declined greatly between 1984 and 2010. In 1984, an estimated 23% of adults ages 65 and older had self-reported functional visual impairment—eyesight problems that interfered with daily activities. By 2010, that number had dropped to about 10%. Researchers who analyzed these data suggest that possible explanations include declining numbers of older smokers (which reduces the cases of age-related macular degeneration), improvements in cataract surgery, and improvements in the treatment of diabetes-related eye problems. Having a comprehensive eye exam now can help you avoid serious functional visual impairment down the road. Even if you don't notice any problems with your vision, some eye diseases like glaucoma can slowly cause lasting eye damage. An eye exam can catch glaucoma early.

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