Ageing is a common cause of deteriorating eyesight, but there may be other reasons you’re struggling to read.
Common causes of failing eyesight
Retinitis pigmentosa is an inherited condition. The retina, a layer of nerves at the back of the eye, do not respond to light properly. This can cause vision loss over time.
Prevention: Retinitis pigmentosa cannot be prevented.
Treatment: Research into treatment for the disease is ongoing. A recent breakthrough has suggested gene therapy may work for some versions of RP.
This infection can come on after the eye has been injured in some way, maybe a scratch, or sometimes occurs in those with diabetes.
Bacterial keratitis can occasionally be seen in those who use spas or swimming pools while wearing their contact lenses. The condition can progress rapidly with loss of vision or even the eye if you don’t start treatment. Those with diabetes are prone to eye infections.
Prevention: Eye infections can be prevented through good hygiene, and especially making sure to keep contact lenses clean, and avoiding contact with infected people. Eye health can also be improved by keeping blood sugar levels in check.
Treatment: Most eye infections are treated with antibiotics. Those with diabetes should keep their blood sugar at safe levels.
Cataracts are very common among the elderly. You may be developing a cataract if you have cloudy or blurry vision, struggle to see without bright light, have double vision or colours look faded.
Prevention: Stop smoking, eat healthily (include foods high in vitamins C and E), reduce exposure to sunlight, and if necessary, manage your diabetes.
Treatment: New spectacles or anti-glare sunglasses may help with early-stage cataracts, but advanced cataracts need to be surgically removed. The lens that is affected will be replaced.
Those with diabetes often suffer eyesight problems as high blood sugar can damage blood vessels in the eyes.
Prevention: Keep blood pressure, blood sugar and blood cholesterol low. Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight and avoid smoking and alcohol.
Treatment: Laser surgery to cauterise the damaged blood vessels in the eye. Keep blood sugar, cholesterol and pressure at safe levels.
Glaucoma can run in the family and is most often found in adults over 60 years old. It’s caused by high pressure in the eye. This squeezes the optic nerve.
Prevention: There is no way to prevent glaucoma.
Treatment: Early detection may lead to treatment. There are also medications that decrease the pressure in the eye which delays the onset of blindness.
Age-related macular degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration causes blurred or opaque vision. The patient is unable to focus clearly. This is mainly prevalent in the elderly, and the risk of the disease developing is increased in people exposed to excess sunlight and those who smoke excessively.
Prevention: Regular visits to your optometrist can help detect early symptoms of the disease. Eating eye-boosting healthy foods also improves overall eye health.
Treatment: In early stage AMD, a specific cocktail of vitamins may help slow the disease.
Cancer of the eyes
Cancer of the eye becomes more likely as you age, especially if you have light-coloured eyes or are white. Sometimes the condition is an inherited one.
Prevention: There is no way to completely prevent eye cancer.
Treatment: These include chemotherapy, surgery, laser therapy, specific medications or radiation therapy. If you fear you may have an eye condition that’s affecting your sight, visit your GP or optometrist, who may refer you to an ophthalmologist if necessary. If your eyes are healthy, keep them so by limiting exposure to harsh light, keeping any other conditions in check, and eating as healthily as possible.