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Eye care tips for seniors

It’s normal for some changes to happen in your vision as you age. But as you get older, your risk of some vision problems and eye diseases can increase. Here are a few steps you can take to protect your eye health as you get older:1

  • Get regular eye exams: If you’re over 60, you should get a dilated eye exam every year or two.2
  • Wear sunglasses Help protect your eyes from ultraviolet (UV) radiation with sunglasses and a wide-brim hat when you’re outside.
  • Manage screen time When you use a computer, take a break every 20 minutes to look 20 feet away for 20 seconds, which helps avoid eyestrain.3
  • Take care of your overall health You may help your eyes by maintaining a healthy diet, exercise routine and avoiding smoking.

Why you should monitor eye symptoms as you age

Some changes in your vision tend to happen naturally as you get older. For instance, you might have more problems seeing things up close, or you may need to give your eyes more time to adjust to changes in light. But some vision changes can be serious, and aging may increase the chance of developing certain eye diseases. Getting your eyes checked regularly by an ophthalmologist or optometrist may help detect problems early. Finding and treating eye conditions as soon as you can is one important way to help prevent vision loss.4

Common eye conditions and diseases for seniors

Many symptoms and eye conditions become more likely with age. Regular exams may help identify or prevent some of these common age-related eye problems:5

  • Cataracts: These cloudy areas form in the lens of the eye. Cataracts are usually slow to form and often don’t cause pain, and they may not always affect how you see. But they can make it difficult for light to pass through the lens, which could cause blurry vision.
  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD): This disease affects the light-sensitive part of the retina or back of the eye. AMD does not usually cause total blindness, but it can distort your central vision.
  • Glaucoma: This disease is usually related to increased pressure within the eye. Glaucoma can lead to permanent vision loss, but it often doesn’t cause other early noticeable symptoms or pain. Your eye doctor can help you detect signs of glaucoma early with regular exams.
  • Floaters: These are small specks that you might notice floating across your field of view, especially on a bright, sunny day. Floaters are usually normal. But if they suddenly change in number or appear with flashes of light, it could be a sign of a bigger problem, like retinal detachment. See an eye doctor as soon as you can if this happens.
  • Dry eyes: If you notice your eyes feeling itchy or burning, it could be a sign of dry eyes. This occurs when your tear glands aren’t making enough tears, or the quality of the tears they produce is poor. Dry eyes can be uncomfortable and could possibly cause some loss of vision. Your eye doctor could treat the condition with special drops or with surgery in more serious cases.

Eye care coverage options for seniors

Original Medicare doesn’t include routine vision coverage. Within the first 12 months you have Medicare Part B, you will get a “Welcome to Medicare” preventive visit that includes a basic vision test.6

Beyond this simple vision test, Medicare only covers some eye care in specific cases. These circumstances include surgery to correct cataracts, diagnostic eye exams or annual eye exams for people with diabetes.7

But you do have options.

Medicare Advantage plans with vision benefits

If you want the added security of vision coverage, consider Medicare Advantage (also called Medicare Part C). Medicare Advantage (MA) plans are offered through private companies and are required by law to provide at least all the benefits of Original Medicare Parts A and B. In addition, many MA plans also include coverage for routine and preventive vision care. This may include coverage for eye exams, eyeglass lenses and frames, or contact lenses.

Finally, some Medicare Advantage plans offer options to add a separate vision or dental plan to beef up your coverage. As you shop, the optional vision or dental plans available to you will be included in your search.

Sources

  1. “Aging and Your Eyes,” National Institute on Aging, last accessed April 13, 2022, https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/aging-and-your-eyes.
  2. “Aging and Your Eyes.”
  3. “Aging and Your Eyes.”
  4. “Aging and Your Eyes.”
  5. “Common Age-Relate Eye Problems,” Cleveland Clinic, last accessed April 13, 2022, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/8567-common-age-related-eye-problems.
  6. “‘Welcome to Medicare’ preventive visit,” Medicare.gov, last accessed April 14, 2022, https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/welcome-to-medicare-preventive-visit.
  7. “Medicare and vision care,” MedicareInteractive.org, last accessed April 14, 2022, https://www.medicareinteractive.org/get-answers/medicare-covered-services/limited-medicare-coverage-vision-and-dental/medicare-and-vision-care.
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