The internet isn’t just for kids

As elderly adults become more computer savvy, some vision risks may arise.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Do you remember the excitement of receiving mail from your grandma with a crisp $5 dollar bill stuffed inside? With the recent explosion of computer use in the age 65 and up crowd, I wonder if my children will get to experience that or if they might receive an email with an e-gift card for Amazon instead.

Currently 74.8 percent of households in the United States have internet access and a remarkable 53 percent of persons 65 years old and up make use of the technology. Even social media is changing with seniors comprising 25 percent of all users. As a result, more seniors than ever before will be using their vision to perform tasks like emailing and making online purchases. While this is clearly a benefit, as seniors can do business in the comfort of their own homes and even order groceries online, there are some inherent pitfalls when it comes to their vision. As we know, patients over 40 tend to have greater difficulty with all near tasks and as the years go by, this only gets worse. Also, conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration are much more prevalent in this population making most visual tasks more difficult. Finally, dry eyes are more common as we age and since we blink less when using a computer, this to can lead to discomfort and fatigue.

So, what can we do to make computer use more comfortable for seniors?

  • Make sure the computer font is at an appropriate size
  • See an optometrist for an up to date glasses prescription and to check for eye disease
  • Consider glasses that are specifically made for computer use with protection from glare
  • Use lubricating drops (artificial tears) and take frequent breaks
  • Do not forget to stand up occasionally and stretch your legs

Additionally, more of the 65 and older crowd is starting to use smart phones (14.5 percent!).   While many smart phones and tablet computers have zoom text, I encourage them to make a purchase with their vision in mind. So, for phones, a phablet like the new iphone plus or the galaxy note makes sense and will be less frustrating to use.

So, while my kids may be fruitlessly waiting by the mailbox, they do get to talk to grandma via skype and facetime which is amazing. What a great time to be a senior!

~ David C. Ardaya, O.D.
California Optometric Association

The ABCs of cataracts

CataractCataracts are a fact of life. Anyone who lives long enough will get them and almost everyone knows someone who has had them.  The good news is, with the latest technology available, improving your vision is very safe and will often times leave you with better vision without glasses than you had before the cataract.

Let’s look at the ABCs of cataracts:

A – Age. Remember that cataracts are changes to the lens of our eye as we get older. Different factors can influence when the cataracts start to form. Cataracts tend to develop sooner in folks who spend a lot of time outdoors in the sun without sun protection or sunglasses. They also tend to form earlier if you have diabetes or if you are a smoker. So keeping your eyes out of the sun and staying healthy will help delay the onset.

B – Blurry Vision. The lens of the eye starts changing with cataract formation, making vision blurry. It is like looking out of a blurry window. Usually night driving will be much harder and cataracts can cause difficulty with headlights a night. Cataracts can also cause glasses prescriptions to change as well. It is common to need one or two changes in glasses prescription before the cataract is affecting vision enough to have it removed.

Courtesy of laulau555 on Flickr

Courtesy of laulau555 on Flickr

C – Cure! The good news about this eye disease is that there is a very good treatment option. Cataract surgery involves removing the blurry lens from the eye and inserting a prosthetic lens in its place. This is an outpatient procedure and can take as little as 20 minutes.  The new lens often has a prescription in it that will be very close to your current glasses or contact lens prescription and will allow you to see better without the use of glasses or contacts.  There are even lenses available that can help with near vision as well as far vision. Usually after cataract surgery, vision improvement can be noticed as early as the next day.

Remember, make sure to have routine eye health and vision exams to determine if cataracts are forming or changing.  Your eye care provider can assist you in determining the appropriate time to have them removed.  Until then, stay healthy and wear sunglasses!

~Lisa M. Weiss, OD, FCOVD
California Optometric Association