Eye health decreases with age, but there are ways to prevent irreversible damage, says one Victoria ophthalmologist.
“It’s important that [seniors] don’t just leave their eyes alone,” said Dr. Olivia Dam, ophthalmologist at Victoria Eye. “They should be definitely checked up on regularly.”
Dam said she recommends seniors get their eyes checked by an optometrist or an ophthalmologist at least once a year.
The three main eye conditions for seniors are macular degeneration, glaucoma and cataracts, said Dam.
Wearing sunglasses can prevent these conditions from getting worse.
“It minimizes the amount of ultraviolet damage to the retina in the eye.”
Monitoring any changes to the eyes and vision ensures that treatment can be done early on.
“Glaucoma slowly takes away the vision from the outside in. If you don’t catch it early enough, you don’t get that vision back. You would slowly be going blind,” said Dam. “If we catch it earlier, then we can prevent further damage.”
Monitoring the development of cataracts is also important, she said.
“It’s one of those things that if you live long enough, you’re going to have them. It’s important to do surgery sooner rather than later, just to make the surgery as good as possible,” said Dam. “As a cataract gets denser and denser, it becomes more complicated to operate on.”
Victoria Eye is the first place on Vancouver Island to offer a new service for cataract surgery.
“We’ve recently acquired a laser to help assist us in cataract surgery,” said Dam “The laser can do portions of the surgery for us with the precision that we can’t manually duplicate.”
Besides wearing sunglasses and regular monitoring, Dam said there are also vitamins people can take to help optimize their chance of not developing age-related macular degeneration, including anti-oxidant vitamins, lutein and omega 3.
“If you have a family history of macular degeneration, or if you have macular degeneration, those are good vitamins to take.”
Another common eye condition that can occur in seniors are dry eyes, which may cause watery eyes.
“As our eyes get older, they also tend to get more dry and irritated.”
Tips for dealing with that include using warm compresses and artificial tears, said Dam.
Dam and her colleague Dr. Darren Behn are hosting an information session for senior’s eye care at
Berwick Royal Oak Retirement Home today (March 26). They will be answering questions and providing information on various eye conditions and treatment options.
“The take-home message [is[ just to get checked regularly so their eye care can be guided,” said Dam. “There tends to be an increased prevalence in eye diseases as people get older.”