While various eye diseases and conditions are not uncommon as people age, any eye problems that go undiagnosed or untreated could cut short a professional driving career. Some eye problems, such as cataracts and glaucoma, can be detected early through regular eye exams.
GLAUCOMA. The optic nerve is vital for good vision, but high pressure in your eye can damage it. Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that can lead to optic nerve damage. It’s one of the leading causes of blindness.
The most common form of glaucoma has no warning signs. The effect is gradual enough that you may not notice a change in vision until the condition is in an advanced stage, says the Mayo Clinic. Additionally, once vision is lost with glaucoma, it cannot be recovered. If glaucoma is recognized early, through regular eye exams that test eye pressure, vision loss can be slowed or prevented.
Symptoms vary depending on the type and stage of glaucoma. Signs include patchy blind spots in your peripheral or central vision, tunnel vision, eye pain, blurred vision, halos around lights and eye redness. Glau- coma tends to run in families.
The Mayo Clinic suggests compre- hensive eye exams every four years starting at age 40, then every two years beginning at age 65. Addition- ally, regular exercise can help reduce eye pressure and prevent glaucoma. If diagnosed with glaucoma, use of glaucoma eye drops can reduce the progression of high eye pressure.
CATARACTS. A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s lens that can make it seem like you’re looking through a frosty window. While most cata- racts develop slowly and don’t affect eyesight immediately, they eventually cause problems. Stronger lighting and glasses can help in the early stages, but surgery may be required as the condition develops.
Symptoms include blurred or dim vision, difficulty seeing at night, sensitivity to light and glare, frequent changes in prescription glasses or contacts, and double vision in a single eye. Cataracts typically develop when aging or injury changes the tissue in the eye’s lens. Other eye conditions, past eye surgery and diseases such as diabetes also can be a cause.
Smokers are at higher risk for cataracts, so quitting smoking can help prevent the condition. Also helpful are eating lots of fruits and vegetables and wearing sunglasses while outdoors.
RETINAL DISEASES. The retina receives and organizes visual information, sending it to your brain through the optic nerve. A wide variety of retinal diseases, most sharing com- mon symptoms, can cause vision problems.
Retinal diseases include retinal tear, retinal detachment, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration and more. Treatment is available for some of the diseases. The main goals are to stop or slow disease progression and preserve or restore vision.
Symptoms of retinal diseases include seeing floating specks or cobwebs, blurred or distorted vision, defects in peripheral vision and lost vision. The best way to notice these symptoms can be looking through each eye alone.
Laser surgery can repair a retinal tear or hole. For retinal detachment, injecting air or gas into the eye can be used in combination with either freezing or laser surgery. Some dis- eases such as macular degeneration can be treated by injecting medicine into the eye.