Posted June 29, 2015
Roseanne Barr’s recent announcement that she’s losing her vision and going blind due to glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration surprised many people. Millions of Americans are losing their sight due to eye diseases, but few recognize the signs. As people age, the risk for eye diseases increases. But scheduling eye exams every two years can make all the difference.
Glaucoma is labeled the silent thief of sight because there are few early warning signs. To catch eye diseases at an early stage, watch for vision changes and make appointments for comprehensive eye exams. (Vision insurance can help lower costs of exams and prescription eyewear.)
Everyone is at risk for developing glaucoma, reports the Glaucoma Research Foundation, but several factors can increase the likelihood:
- Race – African-Americans over age 40 are 15 times more likely develop the disease than Caucasians
- Age – Anyone over age 60
- Family history – Medical experts believe genetics may increase susceptibility
- Medical conditions – Some health issues may increase chances for glaucoma, including diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease
- Lifestyle – Some choices may raise the risk, including smoking or exposure to smoking, or not protecting eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. (Always wear sunglasses with 100 percent UV protection when outdoors.)
Macular degeneration affects central vision
For years, medical professionals believed age-related macular degeneration only affected people age 55 and older. New research indicates there may be genetic factors that cause younger people to develop it. The disease, diagnosed as either wet or dry, slowly destroys central vision, which is necessary for seeing clearly, detecting fine details, reading or driving. Macular degeneration is considered the leading cause of blindness for people age 60 and older.
Age-related macular degeneration isn’t painful and usually affects vision slowly, which makes it difficult to detect. However, the disease may progress quickly and affect vision in both eyes. Common risk factors include
- Family history
- Race (primarily Caucasian)