As you get older staying active becomes more important than ever. If you’re 65 or older, you’ve probably grown up with the idea that the transition from middle age into “senior citizen” status means slowing down. Nonsense, get up and go. Staying active allows you to stay healthy. Staying active however, also means being aware of potential changes in your physical and mental health. Visual changes after age 65 can be so slow over time and recognizing them is sometimes difficult. Some people over 65 experience loss of sight beyond the normal age-related vision changes. Conditions such as macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy are eye health conditions that lead to a more rapid change in vision as you age. These changes take many forms and may exist in varying degrees.
It is important to understand that visual acuity alone is not a good predictor of the degree of visual difficulty that a person may have. Someone with relatively good visual acuity, 20/40 or better for example, may have difficulty functioning while someone with worse visual acuity, 20/60, might not be experiencing any functional problems at all. This is because there are other visual factors that can effect overall vision. These include; poor depth perception, limited side vision, extreme sensitivity to lights, debilitating glare and reduced color perception. Each of these are symptoms that may develop over time secondary to normal aging or eye health issues. All of them can effect a person’s ability to perform visual related tasks at varying degrees.
If you are 65 or older, one of those everyday tasks could be driving a car. Age-related vision changes and eye diseases can compromise driving ability, even before you are aware of symptoms. You may start to notice difficulty judging distances and/or speed or headlights of oncoming traffic may impair your vision significantly.
Age-related vision changes that commonly affect seniors’ driving are:
• Not being able to see road signs as clearly
• Having difficulty seeing objects up close like the car instrument panel
• Changes in color perception
• Problems seeing in low light, rainy or nighttime conditions
• Difficulty adapting to glare from headlights
• Experiencing a loss of side vision
The following tips may help you stay safe when driving, especially at night:
Use extra caution at intersections. Many collisions involving older drivers occur at intersections due to a failure to yield, especially when taking a left turn. Look carefully in both directions before proceeding into an intersection and turn your head frequently when driving to compensate for any decreased peripheral vision.
• If you are having trouble seeing at night or your eyes have difficulty recovering from the glare of oncoming headlights, slow down, try to avoid driving at night or on unfamiliar roads whenever possible. Consider your frame; glasses with thick or wide temples (side arms) may restrict your side vision.
• Talk to your eye doctor about non-glare lenses or special tints to help with night driving.
• Have an annual eye health and vision examination. Yearly eye exams can ensure your eyeglass or contact lens prescription is up to date and provides for early detection of any developing eye health problems.
If you have questions about your vision or eye health or, are interested in having your eyes examined, please contact our office in Stillwater at 405-372-1715. We also invite you to visit our website at www.cockrelleyecare.com and like us on Facebook at Cockrell Eye Care Center!