ParentCare » Vol. 25

Healthy Vision: It’s In Your Hands

By Kim Harmon RN, BSN; CEO of the Auburn VNA Health Network060526-N-3532C-058

Today more than 6.5 million Americans over age 65 have a severe visual impairment. While our sight can ~ and often is ~ the result of diseases such as age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy, it could also just be another unfortunate result of the aging process.

Medical experts and health officials predict that by 2030, rates of vision loss and severe visual impairment in the U.S. will double as America’s 78 million aging baby boomers reach retirement age and beyond.

In a national opinion poll, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) reported that Americans fear vision loss more than they fear cancer, HIV/AIDS, stroke, heart disease, diabetes and other serious health problems. Seniors have shared with me their very real fears about deteriorating eyesight ~ whether or not it’s associated with diabetes.

In this article, you’ll discover a few easy and affordable tips you can implement today to preserve your eyesight; however, if you are diabetic, you really must regularly visit your ophthalmologist for eye exams. This is essential to avoid eye problems since high blood sugar (glucose) increases the risk of diabetes eye problems.

If your vision hasn’t been affected by diabetes, what you might dismiss as “just getting older” could actually indicate general vision deterioration. Here are some of the signs this could be happening to you:

• Squinting and/or a greater sensitivity to light

• Experiencing uncontrolled eye movement

• Choosing bright over dull colored objects or clothing

• Spilling food or drinks because you misjudge where items are

• Clumsiness, like having difficulty threading a needle or buttoning a shirt

• Difficulties with driving at night

• Making driving mistakes, such as missing street signs or traffic signs

• Falling because of a missed step or an unseen object on the  floor

Most seniors can correct normal age-related vision loss with glasses, medication, or surgery. Even with more serious conditions, using vision aids and making changes to your home and routine can help you stay safe and independent.

Even without medical attention, there’s a lot you can do to protect and preserve your vision:

• If you suffer from dry eyes (gritty, itchy, or burning), a home humidifier and eye drops may help.

• If your eyes water, it may be that you are more sensitive to light, wind, or temperature change. Simply shielding your eyes or wearing sunglasses may solve the problem (Sunglasses should provide 99 to 100% UV-A and UV-B protection. Remember, UV rays can harm your eyes even on a cloudy day.).

• Turn on the lights. Seeing better can sometimes be as easy as changing a light bulb to one with a higher wattage. Bright light is especially important in stairways and narrow hallways to help prevent falls.

• Don’t smoke! Smoking tobacco is a major risk factor in the early onset of age-related macular degeneration.

• Be sure to point spray cans and nozzles away from you when spraying.

• Don’t drive at night if you have problems with depth perception, glare, or other vision difficulties.

Kimberly Harmon is President and CEO of Auburn VNA Health Network.  AVHN  provides more than 19,000 home visits annually to more than 700 individuals in Auburn, Worcester and surrounding towns. Kim welcomes your questions, comments or concerns about any specific health issues. You may reach her at or 508-791-0081.

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