Monthly Archives: August 2016

How-To Manage and Prevent Diabetic Retinopathy

It seems like June was just yesterday, but now we are at the end of August. It’s simply amazing how fast the Summer months go by. The end of August means the end of another successful National Eye Exam month. Although National Eye exam month is quickly coming to an end, it doesn’t mean we are done raising awareness of the prevalence of eye diseases and how to prevent our elderly loved ones from suffering from them.

Throughout the month of August, the Wiser Home Care Services blog has covered two of the four leading eye diseases amongst the elderly. As we continue our series this week, we will scour through the causes, treatment and prevention of Diabetic Retinopathy.

Diabetic Retinopathy(DR), a diabetic complication that affects eyes, is caused by chronically high blood sugar levels that, with time, damages the blood vessels of the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. The disease can cause blood vessels in the eye to leak blood and blur vision.

According to a study conducted from 1990-2010, Diabetic Retinopathy was the leading cause of vision loss in adults aged 20-74 years old. Furthermore, the study found that diabetic retinopathy is the fifth most common cause of preventable blindness in the world. In 2010, by the end of the 20-year study, there was an estimated 285 million people worldwide with diabetes and over 1/3 of these people had signs of developing Diabetic Retinopathy.

The Risk
Diabetic Retinopathy only effects people who suffer from diabetes (Type 1, 2 and gestational), and the longer someone has diabetes the higher their risk of suffering from it are. In addition, high blood pressure, cholesterol and tobacco use will increase the risk of suffering from DR.

The Symptoms
Much like any other form of eye disease, the early stages of diabetic retinopathy go virtually unnoticed. In fact, many cases aren’t discovered until the retinal bleeding causes ‘floating spots’ and blurry vision. In addition to blurry vision, those who suffer from DR will also likely experience:

  • Spots or dark strings in their vision
  • Fluctuating vision
  • Impaired color vision
  • Empty areas in their vision

Doctor’s Orders
Once you have DR, treatment for the disease is focused on slowing and stopping the progression of the disease rather than reversing its effects. In the early stages of the disease, the doctor will simply ask the sufferer to maintain healthy blood sugar levels in an effort to slow the progression of the disease.

Once the disease has progressed into mild and severe stages, the doctor will order a surgery immediately to slow and stop any further progression of the disease. There are three different surgeries depending on the specific problems with your retina:

  1. Focal Laser Treatment- Slows or stops the leaking of blood and fluid in the eye.
  2. Scatter Laser Treatment- Shrinks the abnormal blood vessels in an effort to stop vision impairment.
  3. Vitrectomy- The surgeon will make a tiny incision in the eye to remove blood from the middle of the eye.

Although these methods are known to slow or stop the progression of the disease, the victim will likely still suffer from some form of vision loss. Unfortunately, since diabetes is a life-long disease, they will remain at risk of developing DR again.

If you care for an elderly loved one who suffers from Diabetic Retinopathy, and would like help caring for or developing an extensive care plan, we can help. We will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

6 Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Cataracts

6 Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Cataracts

It all started as an idea to raise awareness of eye disease and increase patient visits to the eye doctor. Twenty-seven years later National Eye Exam month is going strong with thousands of ophthalmologists across the United States promoting eye health and safety to their patients.

To do our part in raising awareness for eye health, we started a blog series exploring the four leading eye diseases. We began our series exploring how to lower you and your loved one’s risk of contracting Age-Related Macular Degeneration(AMD). This week our blog will explore the eye health topic of cataracts.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, more than 24.4 million Americans over the age of 40 suffer from cataracts. Furthermore, by the age of 75 nearly half of all Americans have cataracts. In addition, 42% of blindness worldwide is caused by cataracts.

When you consider that nearly 2.1 million Americans over the age of 50 suffer from AMD, you can start to see how prevalent of an issue cataracts are among our elderly loved ones.

Now that you have an idea of the prevalence of cataracts, what are they?

As defined by the National Eye Institute, a cataract is “a clouding of the lens that affects vision.” The ‘lens’ is the clear part of the eye that helps focus light on the retina. While cataracts can occur in either or both eyes, it cannot ‘spread’ from one eye to the other.

Show me your sign
Unfortunately, with cataracts there are very few symptoms. Since cataracts are not inherently painful, the only real symptom is gradual vision loss in the form of blurry vision, night blindness or glares. You or your elderly loved one will probably also notice that over time you will need stronger and stronger glasses.

The Prevention Plan
Even though cataracts are hard to detect, there are several steps you can take in your daily routines to help lower you and your loved one’s risk of developing cataracts. These steps include:

  • Wear sunglasses that block UV penetration
  • Be careful to manage illnesses like diabetes, since complications from these can result in cataracts
  • Eat a diet rich in Vitamin C and beta carotene
  • Always wear protective goggles when the situation calls for it, since cataracts can develop due to an injury to the eye
  • Have regular eye exams
  • Limit your smoking and alcohol use

I have cataracts, now what do I do?
If the cataract is caught early on, your ophthalmologist will likely recommend a stronger pair of eyeglasses. These glasses generally help by reducing glare and magnifying the focus of your eyes.

If glasses do not work, your vision loss starts to interfere with your daily activities or the cataract is preventing the examination or treatment of another eye problem then you will need surgery. During the surgery, the surgeon will remove the cloudy lens and replace it with an artificial one.

If you care for an elderly loved one who suffers from cataracts and would like help caring for or developing an extensive care plan, we can help. We will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

The Caregiver's Guide to Age-related Macular Degeneration

The Caregiver’s Guide to Age-related Macular Degeneration

Being close to the end of the Summer, August is typically known for its consistently hot and dry days but for the last 27 years, it has also become synonymously known as National Eye Exam Month.

Considering the danger to eyes of the sun’s UV rays, in 1989 Sears Optical founded National Eye Exam month in an effort to raise awareness of the importance of eye health and safety. The idea quickly took off and today ophthalmologists all across the nation promote eye health throughout the month of August.

Like many illnesses and diseases, the risk of vision problems significantly increases the older we get and catching it early on greatly increases your chance of solving them. A recent study found that 6.5 million Americans over the age of 65 suffer from severe visual impairment. Furthermore, it is predicted that by 2030 these rates will more than double.

Even if you feel like you have strong vision, experts recommend that once you are over the age of 40 you should have your vision checked every 2-4 years. In addition, once you are over the age of 65, they recommend every 1-2 years.

A study conducted by Prevent Blindness America, a national volunteer eye health and safety organization, found that the four leading eye diseases affecting older Americans are: age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma.

Over the next few weeks, we will explore in depth each of the eye diseases and how you can help lower you and your loved one’s risk of contracting them. This week we will discuss macular degeneration.

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of impaired vision among people over the age of 50.  According to the National Eye Institute, the condition damages “the macula, a small spot near the center of the retina and the part of the eye needed for sharp, central vision, which lets us see objects that are straight ahead.” While AMD does not cause complete blindness, many AMD sufferers must rely on peripheral vision. This can greatly interfere with everyday activities.

As the name suggests, AMD generally happens in people over the age of 60. However, it is possible for AMD to occur earlier if your loved one has any of these qualifying risk factors:

  • Smoking can double their risk of AMD
  • Race- Caucasians are more likely to suffer from AMD than other races
  • Genetics

Although it may be unavoidable for some, there are several lifestyle changes you and your elderly loved one can make to lower the risk of contracting AMD. To lower you or your elderly loved one’s risk, you should consider quitting smoking, exercising regularly, maintain normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels and eat a healthy diet rich in green veggies and fish.

What to Keep an Eye Out For

There are three stages to Age-related Macular Degeneration: early, intermediate and late. According to health professionals, Age-related Macular Degeneration usually starts without symptoms and the only way to detect it, is with a comprehensive dilated eye exam.

If you have Age-related Macular Degeneration, the doctor will be able to determine what stage you are in based on the size and number of drusen under the retina.

How to Treat AMD

Unfortunately, there are currently no treatments for early stage AMD. However, researchers at the National Eye Institute have found that nutritional supplements can help protect against intermediate AMD.

If you care for an elderly loved one who suffers from AMD and would like help caring for or developing an extensive care plan, we can help. We will be happy to answer any questions you may have.