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How Parkinson’s Disease Can Affect Vision

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The main characteristic of Parkinson’s disease (PD) is difficulty with movement that becomes increasingly noticeable as the condition progresses. However, there are many non-motor complications associated with this disease as well, one of which is vision impairment. Eye changes associated with age, such as the development of cataracts, can also affect seniors with PD, but we’re going to focus on vision issues specifically linked to Parkinson’s disease.

Lower Dopamine Levels & Vision Changes

Seniors with Parkinson’s are affected by the loss of a chemical called dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps with the transfer of signals between nerve cells in the brain. Lower levels of dopamine may also affect a region of the brain called the visual cortex, which processes visual information. These changes could affect eye mobility, which sometimes results in visual impairment. According to the American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA), there are three types of eye movement that may be affected by PD:

• Pursuit eye movements, which allow the eyes to follow objects
• Saccadic (rapid) eye movements, which allow the eyes to jump from one target to another (such as going from the end of a sentence to the next paragraph when reading)
• Vergence eye movements, which help eyes adjust and maintain clear focus when an object is coming closer

Seniors with severe vision impairment may need assistance to be able to continue living at home. For many seniors in Philadelphia, PA, live-in care is an essential component of aging in place safely and comfortably. However, it’s important for them to have caregivers they can trust and rely on. At Home Care Assistance, we extensively screen all of our live-in and 24-hour caregivers and only hire those who have experience in the senior home care industry. Our strict requirements ensure seniors can remain in the comfort of home with a reduced risk of injury or serious illness.

Structural Eye Changes & Color Perception Issues

Parkinson’s disease sometimes contributes to structural changes within the eye. It appears these changes are mostly limited to the retina, a thin layer of tissue in the back of the eye that converts light coming into the eye into nerve signals the brain uses to process visual information.

If dopamine receptors in the retina are affected, one of the changes that could occur is a decrease in the ability to distinguish between different shades of color. Eye changes involving color perception sometimes contribute to vision-related disturbances that might include visual hallucinations.

Medication Side Effects & Vision Problems

Drugs or supplements taken to control the motor symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease sometimes affect the eyes and contribute to vision-related problems. For this reason, it’s important for seniors to discuss all medications they’re taking for PD, including prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs, when they have their eyes examined. In some cases, making adjustments to these medications can enhance vision.

If your loved one is living with vision loss and needs assistance with daily tasks, help is available. Seniors can face a variety of challenges as they age, many of which can be mitigated with the help of professional in-home caregivers who provide high-quality senior home care. Philadelphia families trust Home Care Assistance to help their elderly loved ones age in place safely and comfortably.

Treatment of PD-Related Eye Issues

Because Parkinson’s is a progressive condition, seniors with this disease are advised to get regular eye exams to look for signs of vision changes. An ophthalmologist or neuro-ophthalmologist (an eye doctor specializing in nerve-related eye issues) may recommend one or more of the following solutions:

• Prescription eyeglasses or lens tints to correct color perception problems
• Wearing two pairs of glasses—one for distance and one for closer activities such as sewing and reading
• Warm, moist compresses, eye drops, or medicated ointments if Parkinson’s has led to decreased blinking
• Botox injections into muscles surrounding the eye if PD has contributed to excessive blinking

There are a variety of age-related health conditions that can make it more challenging for seniors to live independently. However, many of the challenges they face can be easier to address if their families opt for professional elderly home care. You can rely on expertly trained caregivers to keep your loved one safe and comfortable while aging in place. To hire a dedicated caregiver, call Home Care Assistance at (215) 645-4663 today.

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