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5 Potential Effects of Parkinson’s Disease on Eyesight

By Patricia Schumacher, 9:00 am on

Growing older often means a greater risk of experiencing certain vision problems, such as cataracts and age-related retina damage (macular degeneration). Typically, these changes have nothing to do with Parkinson’s disease (PD) and can affect any older adult. However, there are some vision issues specifically related to this condition. Five of the more common ones are discussed below.

1. Double Vision

According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, it’s common for seniors with PD to have muscle control issues that extend to their eyes, which can result in double vision. It’s a problem sometimes related to medications taken to control other Parkinson’s symptoms. Referred to as convergence insufficiency, double vision caused by a lack of eye muscle coordination is often correctable with specially designed prism glasses.

Seniors with severe vision impairment may need assistance to be able to continue living at home. For many seniors in Rhode Island, 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.

2. Dry Eyes

People with Parkinson’s disease sometimes experience decreased blinking. Because blinking keeps eyes moist, a related problem is dry eyes. If it’s a regular issue, eyes that are excessively dry may sting or burn enough to affect vision. Eye drops can be helpful. Omega-3 fatty acid supplements may be beneficial as well.

3. Involuntary Eye Closure & Eyelid Drooping

It’s not uncommon for seniors with Parkinson’s disease to experience involuntary eye closure (blepharospasm). Eyelids may also droop due to muscle weakness or nerve damage caused by the disease. Both of these issues can narrow the field of vision and contribute to difficulty with navigation and coordination. Vision problems of this nature also increase the risk of falling for seniors with PD. Under certain circumstances, Botox injections may be recommended to address issues with eyelid drooping.

If your loved one is living with vision problems 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 elderly home care. Trust Home Care Assistance to help your elderly loved one age in place safely and comfortably.

4. Blurry Vision

Seniors with Parkinson’s disease sometimes develop blurry vision because of certain medications they’re taking for their PD-related symptoms. This is more likely to happen with anticholinergic drugs, which may be prescribed to enhance muscle contraction and relaxation. Prolonged issues with blurry vision can also contribute to eyestrain, since muscles that control the eyes have to work harder to compensate for blurred images. If appropriate and safe, medication changes or adjustments may correct this problem.

5. Difficulty Reading & Other PD-Related Vision Problems

The quick eye movements that allow the eyes to shift to a new vision target (saccadic eye movements) can slow down as Parkinson’s disease progresses. Should this happen, it can be difficult for seniors with PD to follow words on a page as they go from one line to the next while reading. Older adults with Parkinson’s may also experience other vision problems involving:

• The ability to follow moving targets in a side-to-side direction (pursuit eye movements)
• Blinking to change eye position—Levodopa, the most common PD drug, may help
• The ability to see a target coming right at the eyes (vergence eye movements)
• Difficulty voluntarily opening/closing eyes (ocular motor apraxia)—possible solutions include doing “eyelid crunches” or having Botox injections 

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 manage if their families opt for professional home care services. Rhode Island families can rely on expertly trained caregivers to keep their loved ones safe and comfortable while aging in place. Trust your loved one’s care to the professionals at Home Care Assistance. To create a customized home care plan for your loved one, call (401) 284-0979 today.