The Aging Eye – Glaucoma, Macular Degeneration, Cataracts and Diabetic Retinopathy

What is the common thread between glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy? These all have in common the eye, but more importantly, more than any other generation, they all attack senior citizens. In other words, they affect the aging eye.

Aging is the common factor of all four of these conditions. Considered an 'end stage' illness, Glaucoma occurs when other factors are present and when combined. It is characterized by high pressure in the eye, which may cause serious damage to the optic nerve and could result in blindness, if untreated. High intraocular (eye) pressure, family history, race, cupping of the optic nerve, central cornea thickness less than 0.5mm, and aging are all risk factors.

With anyone who has diabetes, Diabetic Retinopathy may occur. The blood vessels that feed the retina are damaged as a result of this condition. Vision may be impaired; ultimately blindness may result if the diabetes is not managed appropriably. Poor control of blood sugar, high blood pressure, race, high cholesterol, pregnancy, smoking and age are all risk factors. Ultimately, the greater is the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy the longer one has diabetes.

As the macula (the central part of the retina that allows us to see fine details) is progressively damaged, Macular Degeneration occurs. Aging, smoking and family history are all included as risk factors. With the elderly, 30% over 75 can expect to suffer from macular degeneration.

Cataracts are defined as cloudiness or opacity in the lens of the eye. Aging, females, sunlight exposure, myopia (near-sightedness) are all included as risk factors. Also included in greater risk of cataracts are smokers and those with brown eyes. The list of greater risk does not end there as steroid users, those with trauma to the eye, and diabetics are at greater risk for developing cataracts.

Nutrition may, as always, play a large role in maintaining eye health. Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Pro-Vitamin A (beta-carotene) Carotenoids (Lutein and Zeaxanthin), have been proven to provide antioxidant protection to the human body and as such, they may provide anti-aging defenses for the eye as well. We seniors are well-advised to gather as much research-based information as possible, especially for those of us at high risk for chronic, age-related eye disease. The combination of traditional medical science and treatment with appropriately prescribed medications, newly-discovered alternative medical resources and effective nutritional supplements may provide the protection from blindness that we all desire.

Keywords to use in your browser search window include all four diseases followed by

  • risk factors
  • diagnosis
  • treatment
  • nutrition

There is a reassuring abundance of information available on the Internet to help us get a handle on these aging eye related diseases.