Poor vision is not a fact of life as you grow older. It’s important to discover what’s behind any changes or symptoms—whether it’s simply the need for a new eyeglass prescription or something more serious like a vision-threatening eye condition.
Ask yourself if you have noticed any of the following symptoms.
- Do you have trouble seeing, even with your eyeglasses or contact lenses (and prescription changes don’t help)?
- Do you need more light to read or see?
- Do you no longer feel comfortable going out walking or driving at night because of your vision?
- Do lights at night have a “halo” effect?
- Is it more difficult to see things in the distance, like street and highway signs?
- Do bright lights, sunlight, and glare bother you?
- Do you have trouble seeing to read newspapers, magazines, books, instructions, labels, recipes, crossword puzzles, and other small print?
- Are colors not as bright as they used to be?
- Do you have difficulty with stairs, bump into things or fall because of poor sight?
- Does your vision affect your ability to perform daily activities?
- Does your vision inhibit your ability to enjoy hobbies like reading, watching TV, knitting, golfing, or going out with friends?
- Do vertical lines (like signposts and light poles) appear wavy?
- Have you noticed dark or blank spots in your central vision?
- Are you not able to see as far off to the sides as you used to?
- Do you have diabetes and your vision seems to get blurry or fluctuate?
Answering “yes” to just one of these complains MAY mean that you have a vision-threatening concern. Your next step should be to have a comprehensive dilated eye exam, which is typically covered by Medicare and/or insurance.
But, NOT noticing a problem doesn’t necessarily mean you’re safe.
“There are two key reasons why you need to see a professional rather than relying on your own perception,” explains Brett Rhode, MD, Head of Ophthalmology at Aurora Sinai Medical Center. “One, is because vision problems in one eye can often be masked by the ability of the other eye to compensate. And, two, changes can occur so gradually that they go unnoticed. For example, patients with cataracts often have no idea how much loss of light, color, and clarity has occurred until they are diagnosed, and the cloudy lens (cataract) inside their eye is surgically removed and replaced with an implant. And, patients with glaucoma who go undiagnosed for years can lose their side vision so slowly that they don’t realize that it is like looking through a tunnel—with no chance of turning around and coming back out.”
Common vision-threatening conditions will all eventually present symptoms if left untreated long enough. The question is, “Do you really want to wait until whatever is wrong causes permanent irreversible damage or leads to something serious like falling and breaking a hip or having a car accident?
Common Conditions and Their Symptoms
Cataract: Blurring of vision, problems with glare.
Diabetes: Blurring, spots in the line of sight.
Glaucoma: Loss of side vision (a “funneling” effect)
Macular Degeneration: Blind spots, straight lines appear wavy, loss of central vision.