What Common Eye Diseases Should Seniors Be Aware Of?

Aging brings plenty of changes and challenges, especially when it comes to your health. But there’s one critical health concern that many older adults overlook: vision loss. Vision loss is a serious problem for seniors, and it’s incredibly common. However, your eyes often don’t get the attention they need. 

Seniors are at risk of losing their vision completely. One in three seniors experiences an eye disease that causes vision loss by age 65. Though eye diseases are common, they don’t always have to result in total vision loss – especially if seniors take action before they worsen.

To protect your vision and your overall health, it’s important to be aware of the eye diseases that most commonly affect seniors. With early detection and proper care from vision specialists, you may be able to save some of your vision.

The following are four of the most common eye diseases that older adults need to know about.

Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration, or age-related macular degeneration, is the number one cause of vision loss for seniors. This progressive eye disease causes vision loss as it grows worse over time – meaning it can cause severe and permanent vision loss for anyone over age 60.

Symptoms of macular degeneration can include the following:

  • Blurry vision.
  • Difficulty reading fine print.
  • Difficulty seeing while driving.
  • A change or decrease in your ability to see color.

Does Medicare Cover This Condition?

Medicare may cover some aspects of the care required for seniors with macular degeneration. According to Medicare.gov, Medicare Part B may cover certain diagnostic tests and treatments if you are diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is another common eye condition that affects many older adults. It’s one of the most significant causes of blindness in the United States – approximately one million Americans age 65 and older suffer from vision loss as a result of glaucoma. And 75 percent of those who are legally blind due to glaucoma are over age 65.

Because glaucoma primarily causes vision loss in seniors and results in complete blindness if untreated, it’s critical that older adults recognize its symptoms. These can include:

  • Severe or frequent headaches.
  • Pain in the eyes.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Blurry vision.
  • Seeing halos around lights.
  • Redness of the eyes.
  • Blind spots in your vision.
  • Tunnel vision.

Does Medicare Cover This Condition?

Medicare does cover some diagnosis and screening costs for glaucoma. According to Medicare.gov, Medicare Part B will cover an annual glaucoma test – one every 12 months – for subscribers who are considered high risk for glaucoma. 

Medicare guidelines consider individuals to be high risk if they meet these requirements: 

  • You’re living with diabetes.
  • A family history of glaucoma.
  • You are age 50 or older and  African American.
  • You are age 65 or older and Hispanic.

Cataracts

Cataracts affect many elderly individuals. In fact, they’re the most common cause of blindness in the world. However, cataracts are especially worrisome for seniors because the risk of developing this eye disease increases with age. The risk of developing cataracts is below 5 percent for individuals under age 65. However, between age 65 and 75, that risk increases to 50 percent

Cataracts can appear early on in your golden years and rapidly worsen. The following are symptoms to be aware of:

  • Cloudy or blurry vision.
  • Difficulty seeing at night.
  • Sensitivity to lights and glare.
  • Seeing halos around lights.
  • Double vision.
  • Needing brighter light to read.
  • More frequent changes in your vision prescription.

Does Medicare Cover This Condition?

Medicare may cover some aspects of care for cataracts. Healthline reports that Medicare will cover cataract surgery for anyone over age 65. Additionally, Medicare.gov notes that Medicare will help pay for corrective lenses for seniors who have cataract surgery to implant an intraocular lens. This includes one pair of standard-frame eyeglasses or one set of contact lenses.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Seniors today have another eye disease to be concerned about and aware of: diabetic retinopathy. As the number of individuals living with type 2 diabetes has increased, so has the prevalence of this eye disease. Diabetic retinopathy is considered a diabetes complication, and it damages the blood vessels of the retina.

The longer you’ve lived with diabetes, the higher your risk for developing diabetic retinopathy is. Symptoms may not appear in the early stages of this disease, but as it progresses they can include:

  • Spots or strings floating in your vision.
  • Blurry vision.
  • Fluctuating or unstable vision.
  • A change in your ability to see color.
  • Dark areas in your vision.
  • Vision loss.

Does Medicare Cover This Condition?

Although Medicare doesn’t normally cover exams for vision, Medicare.gov reports that subscribers are covered for eye exams for diabetic retinopathy. You’re covered for one exam per year if you are diagnosed with diabetes.

Seniors: Take Action Now to Get Covered for These Common Conditions

Aging doesn’t mean you have to deal with significant blows to your health. While eyesight tends to worsen as you get older, you don’t need to settle for vision loss – and you should be concerned about any changes to your eyesight. Even small changes could be signs of the common eye diseases mentioned here.

However, seniors should keep in mind that Medicare does not cover exams or screenings, such as routine eye exams, for vision. You may not be able to prevent vision loss if you aren’t getting regular checkups with an ophthalmologist who can monitor your eyes and any changes to your vision. 

While Medicare may cover some aspects of the diseases mentioned here, it’s important to have vision insurance to help with costs. Vision insurance can ensure you’re getting regular checkups, and it can make caring for your eyesight far more affordable. You can shop around for various vision plans online, or even add vision coverage via different Medicare options and plans. Just make sure you’re covered, especially if you’re worried about these diseases.

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