I had a great time with the South Oldham Lions Club on September 11, 2018, at the Brownsboro Community Center in Crestwood. They asked me to give a presentation about the eyes that would be relevant to their local membership. Since many of them are entering the golden years of life, I chose to talk about three eye conditions commonly found in people over 50 – dry eyes, cataracts, and macular degeneration. To read the full transcript of Dr. Fowler's discussion on dry eyes disease, please click here.
Dry eye is a condition where the eyes don’t wet properly due to poor tear quality, poor tear quantity, and/or inflammation of the ocular surfaces. It is estimated that 10-25% of Americans suffer from this condition, but rates are rising rapidly due to our aging population and obsession with electronic devices. Many factors can contribute to dry eye including seasonal allergies, contact lens wear, smoking, diabetes, laser eye surgery, and certain medications. People with dry eyes typically experience sandy, gritty, irritated, or watery eyes. They may also notice blurred vision early in the morning or late at night, and often feel the urge to rub their eyes. Dry eye can be improved with artificial tears, lid hygiene, eye ointments, tear duct plugs, and medications like Xiidra and Restasis. To prevent dry eyes, optometrists encourage avoidance of windy, dry climates and conditions, taking frequent breaks from electronics, and staying well hydrated.
Our second topic was cataracts. A cataract occurs when the lens inside the eye becomes cloudy. It can cloud in the front, in the back, along with the sides, or right in the center of the lens. More than 24 million Americans over 40 have cataracts, and most of these cataracts are caused by aging and exposure to the sun without sun protection. People with cataracts experience light sensitivity and bothersome glare from windows, electronic devices, and/or car headlights at night. As the cataract/clouding progress over time, vision often decreases to the point where surgical removal of the lens is necessary. Thus, optometrists frequently counsel their patients on the importance of proper eye protection (a hat and sunglasses) when enjoying outdoor activities, and annual dilated eye exams to check for cataract progression.
I concluded the evening with a discussion on macular degeneration – the progressive destruction of the central retina in the back of the eye. More than 30% of Americans over the age of 75 have this condition, though it is most commonly found in Caucasian women – especially those with a family history of the disease, and those who have smoked. People with macular degeneration experience a blurring and distortion of their central vision which makes reading and facial recognition increasingly difficult as the disease advances. They may also notice that colors seem dim or faded. Unfortunately, for these individuals, there is no cure for macular degeneration, though laser treatments and injections my slow its progression. To protect against developing this condition, optometrists encourage avoidance of smoking, regular exercise, and eating a balanced diet that includes several types of fruits and vegetables.
It was a pleasure sharing these topics with the Lions Club, and I am looking forward to further discussions in the future.