As life expectancy improves, the number of older Americans with low vision is expected to double in the coming years. Low vision, which can be traced to several factors, including age-related macular degeneration, is a condition in which poor vision cannot be corrected or improved with eyeglasses, contact lenses or surgery.

Low vision is not synonymous with aging, meaning there are steps you can take to preserve your sight, beginning with a comprehensive eye exam.

“If you start to notice changes in your vision, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, it’s important to see an eye doctor immediately,” explains Dr. Vivienne Velasco of iFocus Vision Center in Las Vegas. “A person cannot assume their eyesight is changing simply because they’re getting older, not without an eye exam that can identify the exact cause of vision loss.”

Although low vision is irreversible, that doesn’t mean nothing can be done to improve quality of life.

“It’s very possible to retain your independence even as your vision declines,” Dr. Velasco says. “Like any sight-threatening condition, it’s critical to address vision loss in the early stages.”

Improving Quality of Life

As September is designated Healthy Aging Month by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, here are some simple changes that you can make to improve your quality of life:

  • Improve contrast. Put dark place mats under white place settings. Use rugs that are a contrasting color with the floor, and kitchen towels and cutting boards that contrast with the countertop. Use contrasting colored tape along the edges of rugs, stairsteps and lamp shades.
  • Improve lighting. Many falls are caused by low vision. Add lighting to staircases and dark hallways. Remove rugs from hallways to prevent tripping. Task lighting in the kitchen can also make food preparation safer and easier.
  • Reduce clutter and organize. A cluttered house is more difficult to navigate and can contribute to falls and frustration. When each item has a specific place and is identified with a high-contrast label, it’s easier to locate items needed for everyday living.
  • Embrace technology. Books on tape and personal voice-activated assistants, like Google Home or Amazon’s Alexa, can be enormously helpful for people who can no longer see well enough to read, dial a phone or set a thermostat.

The Aging Eye

If you are finding it difficult to read your smartphone up close, you’re likely not alone. Around the age of 40, many people will start to experience presbyopia, or “aging eye.” This is why people in that age group often require reading glasses, and it’s another reason to make sure you’re up to date on your eye appointments.

“An annual comprehensive eye exam, coupled with a healthy diet and exercise, are key preventative steps that can reduce your chances of vision loss,” Dr. Velasco says.

Some of the risk factors to take into consideration once you reach the age of 40 include diabetes, high blood pressure, and, importantly, your family’s history of eye disease.

iFocus Vision Center remains open with strict guidelines in place to protect patients and staff members. Patients with an urgent need are seen by appointment only, and iFocus offers curbside pickup for eyeglasses or contact lens refills. To schedule an appointment, contact us at 702-473-5660.