Loss of vision is a health problem of concern among the elderly. Statistics show that at least one person out of every three develops a vision problem by the age of 65. Among the different causes of vision impairment, cataract, age-related macular degeneration, and glaucoma have been identified as the main causes of this problem in the elderly (Vitale, Scotch & Sperduto, 2006). Among these, cataract is the leading cause of loss of vision. However, it is easily rectified through surgery. The age-related macular degeneration results in a deficiency of the central vision, while glaucoma results in damage to the optic nerves, as well as loss of visual field (Houde, 2007). This essay aims to analyze the causes of loss of vision in detail.
Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
It is the primary cause of impaired vision in persons who are more than 65 years old. The primary characteristic of this condition is the degeneration of the region of the retina referred to as the macula, which is responsible for maintaining the central vision. The main risk factors for AMD include CVD, tobacco smoking, elevated blood pressure, and the presence of the condition in the family line (Vitale, Cotch & Sperduto, 2006). The condition is classified either as Exudative (wet) AMD or Non-Exudative (dry) AMD. Of all the people suffering from AMD, 90% of them have the non-exudative type. AMD can be triggered by the consumption of high carotenoid content in food. The use of mineral supplements, as well as antioxidant vitamins to control this problem is controversial and a subject that needs further research (Cumming et al., 2007). Though this condition may result in severe vision impairment, it is advantageous because does not cause total blindness. Furthermore, even though it can result in total loss of the central vision, it has no effect on the peripheral vision (Chou, Dana & Bougatsos, 2009).
This is the loss of vision that is caused by a damaged optic nerve. The most common type of glaucoma is open-angle glaucoma (Javis, 2012). Up to 10 percent of cases of blindness in the US are caused by glaucoma. Moreover, the disease is not sex specific. The risk factors mainly associated with glaucoma are being aged, suffering from diabetes, shortsightedness or elevated blood pressure, or inheriting it along the family line. In terms of pathophysiology, the condition is a slow progressing chronic disorder. The disease is always asymptomatic, until it reaches advanced stages, mainly after it has resulted in total loss of the visual field. On examination, the condition is associated with open angles that are normal in appearance, loss of the visual field, and the intraocular pressure normally above 21mmHg (Chou, Dana & Bougatsos, 2009).
This is not only one of the main causes of loss of vision in the elderly, but it is also the primary cause of blindness globally. Individuals who are below the age of 65 years have fewer cases of glaucoma compared to persons above the age of 75 years. Direct exposure to UV light is the predisposing factor. The lens of the eye becomes opaque with time and eventually blinds the vision. People affected by this condition often lament over blurred vision. The disease progresses slowly, resulting in the loss of vision in months or years. Nevertheless, there are cases where cataract progresses faster. The loss of vision effect of this condition is easily neutralized through cataract surgery, which is safe, reliable, and effective if performed correctly (Owsley et al., 2002).
Chou, R., Dana, T., & Bougatsos C. (2009). Screening older adults for impaired visual acuity: a review of the evidence for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Annals of Internal Medicine, 151, 44-58.
Cumming, R. G., Ivers, R., Clemson, L., Cullen, J… & Hayes, et al. (2007). Improving vision to prevent falls in frail older people: a randomized trial. J Am Geriatr Soc, 55, 175-181.
Houde, S. C. (2007). Vision loss in older adults: Nursing assessment and care management. New York, NY: Springer Publishing.
Jarvis, C. (2012). Physical examination and health assessment (6th ed.). New York, NY: Elservier/Saunders.
Owsley, C., McGwin, G. Jr., Sloane, M., Wells, J., Stalvey, B. T., & Gauthreaux, S. (2002). Impact of cataract surgery on motor vehicle crash involvement by older adults. JAMA, 288, 841-9.
Vitale, S., Cotch, M. F., & Sperduto, R. D. (2006). Prevalence of visual impairment in the United States. JAMA, 295, 2158-2163.