From ageing eyes to glaucoma: Signs you need to see an optometrist

Aug 20, 2018
Presbyopia, cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma are some of the eye conditions causing problems for Baby Boomers. Source: Pixabay

As many as 70 per cent of Australians need to see an optometrist, yet fear is standing in the way of people seeking help.

More than half the nation has trouble reading, 22 per cent can’t see the TV menu clearly, while 21 per cent can’t see properly when driving. Also, 2 million people have experienced embarrassment because they’ve done something silly because they couldn’t see what they were doing. This includes everything from applying hairspray instead of deodorant, wearing clothes inside out, eating lollies with the wrapper left on, not recognising a friend waving at them and even walking around with cream not rubbed into their face.

Optometrist at Alcon Laboratories Tsu Shan tells Starts at 60 that many Baby Boomers fear wearing glasses may impact the way they look.

“The funny thing is a lot of us are actually fearful of wearing glasses,” she says. “Some of us feel they make us look old or they really don’t understand what other options there are out there.

Read more: Cataracts: What they are, who gets them and how they’re treated

“It’s actually more older people. With younger people, interestingly, glasses are all the rage and fashion.”

Appearance aside, taking care of eyesight is important, especially given presbyopia (ageing eyes) is a condition that impacts all Australians. Everyone’s eyes age at a similar rate and usually begin to deteriorate after the age of 43. Despite this, just 27 per cent of people have heard of the term, while 12 per cent have no idea what it means. A website,, has been set up to give people more information about the condition and what they can expect from it.

“Most commonly, it’s issues up near, so you might see some people, they try and read their phone or a newspaper and they have to pull their arms out straight up because it’s too close for them and they can’t see,” Shan says. Eventually, their arms are just not long enough.”

In other cases, vision becomes blurry, while some can’t see while they’re driving. It’s also common for people to experience headaches or becoming tired.

“I’ve had some patients before where they can’t even read two pages before they want to close their eyes,” Shan recalls.

Read more: Causes and cures for irritable dry eyes

In addition to presbyopia, cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma can become big problems for Boomers if left untreated. As Shan explains, these eye problems are part of the regular ageing process, but it’s important to know there is help available.

In addition to glasses, there are other treatments available, depending on a patient’s lifestyle needs and what’s best for them.

“For example, there are contact lenses,” Shan says. “There’s multifocals these days, which again, it’s not a scary process. There’s also laser surgery and particularly with cataracts, there are surgeries to remove that, but it’s a bit more invasive.”

Initial eye tests are nothing to be concerned about and aren’t invasive or painful. An optometrist will look at the vision and assess how a patient is coping with both long and near distance vision. It’s also important to provide the optometrist with as much information about your health as possible.

“It’s really important that if you are on medication or you have pre-existing health conditions, it’s great to have them written down before you come in, particularly if you have a lot of them,” Shan says. “Again, there’s a lot of eye conditions that are associated with different health conditions.”

Eye pressure will also be tested, while digital technology will also help optometrists assess areas of the eye that are invisible to the naked eye. Ideally, people should be getting their eyes tested once every year.

“It’s like going to the doctor once a year. It’s like the dentist,” Shan says. “We’re talking about the eyes here. They’re a vital organ and without our eyesight, it can be quite debilitating.”

Most eye tests in Australia are covered by Medicare and can be booked at your local optometrist.

What do you think? When was the last time you had your eyes checked?

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