Don't lose sight of vision care

It's enough to make a grown person cry.

No, that’s not correct.

Most of us take just take our eyes for granted and wouldn’t think of shedding a tear over them – until it’s too late.

A national survey affirms we pay little attention to vision changes until they are too far advanced to treat. Now that’s decidedly worth some tears.

“Although vision changes obviously occur with age, a significant number of people never go to see an eye doctor. They simply buy over-the-counter reading glasses and carry on, not questioning why they have a vision decline,” says Dr. Mark Wilkinson, OD, chair of the American Optometric Association’s Rehabilitation Institute.

Those declines can be serious.

Boomers are at an age when they need to know about macular degeneration – the leading cause of blindness in adults 65 and older – and glaucoma, which is treatable if caught early.

Macular degeneration is an eye disease that causes the loss of central vision, a necessary ability if you plan to drive, read, watch TV. Glaucoma is a term for a group of eye diseases that result in peripheral vision loss.

Then there are cataracts, a cloudy or opaque area in the center of the lens of the eye and dry eye, a condition of poor lubrication. Both of these conditions are easily treatable, in most cases.

Wilkinson answered a few basic questions.

Why don’t people schedule eye examinations?

I suspect it’s because few have insurance for eye exams. Medicare does not pay for routine eye care. If people have an eye disease and are recognized as being at risk of losing vision, they can take advantage of Medicare, however.

But there is a point when you are too old to drive, right? I’m thinking of night vision, for example.

Vision problems get worse as you age. We all have difficulties with poorly lit streets and other obstacles at night. We spend quite a bit of time with older drivers concerned about being able to drive. Studies have shown there is absolutely no age when you can say a person is not safe to drive. That depends on individual review and assessment.

But it may not be vision. There is some cognitive loss, too. The brain may be working a little bit slower and you may be restricted to local, familiar driving.

How about diet?

Yes, diet can affect your eyes.

The AOA recommends lutein as a supplement or a diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, kale, corn, green beans, peas, oranges and tangerines.

Also essential fatty acids, including fatty fish like tuna, salmon or herring, chicken and eggs.

We need vitamin C, found in fruits and vegetables; vitamin E from vegetable oils and zinc.

Plus examinations?

Yes, you should come in every year.

And if I still have problems reading some books and papers?

Get your books in larger type or increase the type size on your computer. That’s the easy part.