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February 11, 2009 > Look Out for Your Eyes and Prevent Blindness

Look Out for Your Eyes and Prevent Blindness

Washington Hospital Seminar Focuses on Vision Problems Related to Aging

Reading glasses are a common sight among the baby-boomer generation. That's because most people experience some loss of vision as they age. Reading becomes more difficult in low light until finally glasses are needed to see the words clearly. However, blurred vision, dark spots, loss of peripheral vision, and other serious symptoms may be signs of eye disease.

"It's so important to take good care of your eyes and pay attention to any changes in your eyesight," said Dr. Sarbjit S. Hundal, an ophthalmologist at Washington Hospital who will present an upcoming class on vision problems with Dr. Christopher M. DeBacker, an ophthalmologist and reconstructive plastic surgeon at Washington Hospital. "If we catch it early, we can slow the progression of diseases like glaucoma and macular degeneration."

"Vision and Drooping Eyelid Problems" is scheduled for Tuesday, February 24, from 1 to 3 p.m., at the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium at Washington West, 2500 Mowry Avenue, in Fremont. To register, call (800) 963-7070.

While many people see just fine into their 60s and beyond, age brings changes that can weaken your eyes. The risks of developing drooping eyelids, cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy rise dramatically as we age. That's why doctors recommend getting your eyes checked each year by an ophthalmologist starting at age 45.

DeBacker will talk about drooping eyelids. The eyelids protect your eyes, but as we age, excess skin can build up around the eyes, causing the eyelids to sag.

"Drooping eyelids can actually block your vision like a curtain," DeBacker said. "If your lower eyelids droop, it can make your eyes uncomfortable, dry and irritated."

Surgery is usually the best option for drooping eyelids. DeBacker will explain the surgical procedures available to tighten the eyelids.
Disorders Limit Eyesight

Hundal will discuss the four major eye disorders that can impair your vision or cause blindness. He will address the symptoms as well as prevention and treatment options.

Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in older adults. They are cloudy areas in part or all of the eye's lens that keep light from easily passing through to the retina, affecting the ability to see. Cataracts form slowly and cause no pain. They can be removed with surgery.

Glaucoma is the term for a group of diseases that can destroy the optic nerve. There are no symptoms other than loss of vision, which occurs so gradually it can go undetected. The first sign is usually the loss of peripheral vision. There is no cure, but if caught in the early stages, blindness can almost always be prevented.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affects the macula, which allows you to see fine detail. It gradually destroys sharp, central vision, making it difficult to see objects clearly. There are two types: dry and wet. With dry AMD, the most common symptom is blurred vision. For wet AMD, the classic symptom is straight lines like the sides of buildings or telephone poles start to look wavy.

People with diabetes are at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, which harms the blood vessels in the retina. In the early stages, the blood vessels may leak fluid, which distorts vision. Eventually, new vessels may grow and send blood into the center of the eye, causing serious vision loss.

To learn more about protecting your eyesight as you age, register for the seminar by calling (800) 963-7070.

For more information about Washington Hospital and its programs and services, visit www.whhs.com.

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