Vision Care: Exploring how nutrition impacts eye health and the vision experience of the elderly



What are the common causes of vision loss in the elderly population?

As you age, your likelihood of developing eye and vision-related diseases increases.

Explanation of the common disorders

Age-related Macular Degeneration

  • Age-related macular degeneration is an eye disease that can blur the sharp, central vision you need for activities like reading and driving. “Age-related” means that it often happens in older people. “Macular” means it affects a part of your eye called the macula. (National Eye Institute)

Glaucoma

  • Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve, the health of which is vital for good vision. This damage is often caused by abnormally high pressure in your eye.

  • Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness for people over the age of 60. It can occur at any age but is more common in older adults. (Mayo Clinic)

Cataracts

  • A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens of your eye. For people who have cataracts, seeing through cloudy lenses is a bit like looking through a frosty or fogged-up window. Clouded vision caused by cataracts can make it more difficult to read, drive a car (especially at night) or see the expression on a friend's face. (Mayo Clinic)

  • Most cataracts develop slowly and don't disturb your eyesight early on. But with time, cataracts will eventually interfere with your vision. (Mayo Clinic)

Diabetic Retinopathy

  • Diabetic retinopathy is an eye condition that can cause vision loss and blindness in people who have diabetes. It affects blood vessels in the retina (the light-sensitive layer of tissue in the back of your eye). (National Eye Institute)

What to watch out for?

  • Any of these symptoms can indicate a risk to your eye health and you should seek consultation from an eye specialist to maintain proper vision care:

  • Blurred vision

  • Image distortion

  • Central scotoma (blind spot in the centre of one or both eyes)

  • Difficulty reading

  • Visual field loss

  • Glare

  • Monocular diplopia (double vision in one eye)

  • Floaters (shadows in your vision)

  • Poor night vision

What can you do if you have symptoms?

It is critical that when you are experiencing any of the above symptoms to seek professional medical help.

Going into an Optician's office is often the first time someone will realize that they are experiencing impaired vision symptoms. Take time to reflect on any changes that might have occurred to your vision.

Stop and consider the following:

  • Has it been too long since I last got my eyes checked?

  • Have I been protecting my eyes from sunlight?

  • Have I avoided sustaining any minor eye injuries like scratches or trauma?

If you are unsure or have any doubts about the questions above, it's likely time to make an appointment.

What if I don't have any symptoms of vision loss?

If a treatment or refractive services are not immediately necessary for you right now, it is an opportune time to focus on preventative care. There is increasingly more evidence showing how interconnected your eye health is with lifestyle and nutrition.

We go into more detail below.



Nutrition and Vision Care

Exploring the relationship between diet and eye health

There are unique nutritional needs of the eye tissues. See below for a list of nutrients and vitamins along with food recommendations that will help you maintain healthy eyes.

Lutein Carotenoids protect and/or work to improve vision.

Foods high in Lutein Carotenoids:

  • Kale

  • Spinach

  • Swiss chard

  • Collards

  • Green peas

  • Brussels sprouts

  • Broccoli

Vitamin C can play a role in protecting against photooxidative damage.

Foods high in Vitamin C:

  • Broccoli

  • Brussels sprouts

  • Citrus fruit and juice like grapefruit and orange

  • Guava

  • Kiwi

  • Papaya

  • Red cabbage

  • Snow peas

  • Strawberries

  • Sweet peppers

Zinc is foundational to the composition of the human retina and plays a pivotal role in eye health.

Foods high in Zinc

  • Fish

  • Poultry

  • Cereals

  • Oils and fats

Nutrition does not replace the need to seek professional assistance for eye care, but it can reduce risk factors that can lead to loss of vision.