Did you know that from the age of 40 our eyes change rapidly? And by the age of 65, we will need three times more light to see than we did at 20?
As we grow older, our eyes take longer to adjust to sudden changes in light and dark. They are more sensitive to glare and are less able to judge distance and depth. This, in turn, can affect your ability to see the edges of steps, stairs, footpaths and kerbs.
Your eyes not only allow you to see obstacles and judge steps, they also play an important role in helping you to keep your balance. Gradual changes in eyesight, which we may not actually notice, can increase a person’s risk of having a fall.
Bifocal, trifocal or multifocal glasses can also increase a person’s chance of falling, as the changes in the lens can make it more difficult to judge distances and see objects on the ground. Other eye conditions, such as macular degeneration or glaucoma, can also impair a person’s vision.
So, what can you do to maximise your eyesight and reduce the risk of fall?
Have your eyesight and glasses checked by an optometrist at least once every two years and yearly by a doctor.
If you notice changes in your eyesight, make an appointment with your doctor or optometrist. Early detection of eye problems can stop them from becoming worse.
Keep your glasses clean and always wear the correct glasses – reading glasses for reading and distance glasses for driving or walking around.
Take extra care on steps if you bifocals, trifocals or multifocals, which can make it more difficult to judge where to put your feet. Allow yourself time to get used to new glasses, particularly if your prescription has changed.
Wear sun glasses and a hat outside to reduce glare. Ensure you have, and wear, prescription sunglasses if required.
Be aware of sudden changes in light. If you go from light to dark, or the other way around, take a few moments to stop and give your eyes time to adjust before moving on.
Ensure you have adequate lighting in and around the home. Check that there is good lighting near internal and external stairs and along paths and driveways.
Arthritis conditions that can affect your eyesight
Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune condition, can cause dryness, irritation, a gritty feeling or painful burning of the eyes. Around half the people who have Sjogren’s syndrome also have another form of arthritis, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. Early diagnosis and treatment, such as eye drops to lubricate the eye, is extremely important for controlling symptoms and minimising the impact on vision.
Uveitis, meaning inflammation of the eye, can involve one or both eyes. Symptoms, which can come on quite suddenly may include red eye, watery eye, eye pain, light sensitivity, blurry vision, r a small or distorted pupil. There are different types of uveitis, which can affect different parts of the eye. The most common pattern of uveitis is inflammation of the iris (also known as iritis), the iris being the coloured part of the eye.
People with inflammatory forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis or psoriatic arthritis, may experience short periods of eye inflammation that can result in red, sore eyes or blurry vision. Children with certain forms of juvenile arthritis may also be affected by episodes of uveitis.
Early diagnosis and treatment is vital to manage symptoms and prevent longer-term eyesight complications. Seek the advice of your GP or rheumatologist, who may refer you to an ophthalmologist or other eye specialist for further consultation and treatment.
Jaksetic, A., 2017. Make the most of your eyesight. Arthritis Matters, (Winter 2014), pp.16-17.