Art of Aging: Aging Eyes

Many things change as we go through life, and vision is among the most notable ones.

By this summer, Peggy Corcoran was fed up with her worsening cataracts.

"Things were dull, and they weren't clear," she said.

After Dr. Richard Jahnle of Main Line Health removed the first cataract, she couldn't believe the difference.

Peggy said, "I went home and saw things I haven't seen before."

Now, she's anxious to have the other one out.

Dr. Jahnle says cataracts usually begin in middle age.

Over time, the lens becomes cloudy, and routine tasks get harder.

"They'll usually say things like - it's harder to drive at night. The headlights have a glow around them," said Dr. Jahnle.

You may need more light to read or you can't pick the right color of socks.

The fix - replace the cloudy lens with a clear implant.

And there are many options.

Dr. Jahnle adds, "Some people want us to put an implant in to correct for distance, and then they wear reading glasses. Other people want to be able to read without glasses."

Peggy's lens corrects her astigmatism.

Cataracts are the most frequent problem in aging eyes, but Dr. Jahnle says there are other significant ones - such as retina damage due to Type 2 diabetes.

"Diabetes makes the vessels get blocked or break and bleed," said Dr. Jahnle.

In glaucoma, pressure builds up inside the eye, damaging the optic nerve, and eroding peripheral vision.

Macular degeneration, on the other hand, damages central vision, making it hard to read, or see facial features.

The dry type progresses slowly, but the wet type can cause fast vision loss if it's not treated quickly.

Dr. Jahnle adds, "That type of macular degeneration can be treated now with special medicines which ophthalmologists inject right into the eye."

He says seniors need a thorough eye exam once a year or more if there are special concerns.

Peggy is glad she didn't delay.

"I didn't think it was going to be this good," said Peggy.

For more information on programs for seniors, visit our Art of Aging section.
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