Declining vision is something many of us assume comes with age, but is that necessarily true? Not always. For a large number of people over 50, that decline in vision could be from cataracts! That is why it is so important to not only get your prescriptions for eyewear checked, but to also schedule a thorough eye exam with your eye doctor.
There are studies which show individuals who gradually lose their site over time may not realize that their vision problems are from cataracts. As a result of the loss of vision, they may trip and fall more easily, and they may become fearful of leaving their homes.
“….In most cases, age-related cataracts tend to develop gradually and, as with hearing loss, which also tends to develop over time, progressive vision issues can impact one’s ability to stay connected with others. Where once a person might just have driven to see a friend, that individual may now be more hesitant to drive – particularly at night – because of vision problems. “You have too much glare or you can’t see very well, and so you stop driving as much as you used to,” says Dr. Anne Coleman, a professor of epidemiology at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and professor of ophthalmology at the university’s Stein Eye Institute. “You go to events and you really can’t see people, you can’t see your way around the room.”
Experts say such effects can be socially isolating and spiderweb through many other facets of a person’s life.
Sharon Christ, an associate professor of human development and family studies at Purdue University, and fellow researchers have found the loss of visual acuity – or clarity or sharpness of vision – can negatively affect the functional status of older adults. Namely, their ability to do what are referred to as instrumental activities of daily living declines; “activities like cleaning, being able to cook – some of them are a little more social in nature, like being able to use the telephone,” Christ notes. These serve as a measure of one’s ability to live independently.
Research she led published in 2014 in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology found that loss of visual acuity adversely affected IADL, which subsequently increased a person’s risk of dying. “Starting out with lower vision and also if your vision is declining quicker as you age, that tends to lead to an increase in mortality,” Christ says.“
If you or a loved one have been having trouble seeing clearly, it could be time to get your eyes checked. Cataract surgery is a fiarly safe procedure and once people can see more clearly, life begins to open up again. I have seen some of our clients go from being fearful and isolated, to once again becoming more social once they can see more clearly.
Unless you are in the medical and caregiving profession, it’s easy to brush things off as simply a sign of again. But in this day and age, we don’t accept this as fact. There has been research which shows without a doubt how hearing loss, social isolation and hearing loss all have detrimental effects on our health. Not just for our older folks, but for all of us. So, don’t worry that you are too old, or too young for a particular symptom, go get things checked out. Live your best life for as long as you can.
Conversely, the benefits of treating visual problems may extend way beyond simply improving one’s vision.
Research finds undergoing cataract surgery to correct the issue is associated with a lower rate of death for all causes. One recent study of 74,044 participants in the Women’s Health Initiative clinical trial found “cataract surgery was associated with decreased risk for all-cause mortality and mortality attributed to vascular, cancer-related, accidental, neurologic, pulmonary, and infectious causes.” The overall, or all-cause, mortality rate was 1.52 deaths per 100 person-years (a measure that takes into account the number of persons studied and the time they were observed) in the cataract surgery group and 2.56 deaths per 100 person-years in the cataract diagnosis group, who didn’t undergo surgery.