Common Diseases of Late Adulthood
The elderly (those aged above 60 years) makes up a part of the general population and – thanks to advancements in the healthcare sciences and technology – has begun to occupy a larger share of the population pie due to the resulting increased life-expectancy. It is even estimated that by the year 2020, the elderly will represent 18% of the American population, quite a large leap from 12% in 1990. By this estimated period, one in every six Americans will be elderly. To this end, it becomes quite highly important to be aware of the diseases that face this particular age group.
If the statistical data are any indication, these diseases are bound to become larger concerns as the population of the elderly grows as well. As it is, about 80% of elderly adults living at home suffer from chronic diseases – as much as five to six chronic illnesses (Wykle, 2007, p.10-11, 20, 24). Some of these diseases include cataracts, glaucoma, deafness (presbycusis), Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and dementia among others.
Diseases affecting the vision and eyesight of the elderly include cataracts and glaucoma. Cataracts are described as the clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye/s. The resulting “frosting” turns the lens partially opaque and as a result disrupts the lens’ natural function to sharpen and focus light that passes through it and thus disrupts the normal process of vision. There are many types of cataracts and it is mostly due to chemical changes in the lens that may be a result of natural aging, hereditary factors and eye injuries among others (HealthScout Network, 2009). Glaucoma on the other hand “is a disease caused by increased intraocular pressure (IOP) resulting either from a malformation or malfunction of the eye’s drainage structures” (St. Luke’s Cataract & Laser Institute, 2008). If left untreated glaucoma may result in permanent damage to the optic nerve and retinal fibers and lead to permanent blindness. For the former condition, surgery is the best treatment option while for the latter, medications are available to control the IOP.
Hearing loss is another common disease in the elderly. An example of which is a condition known as presbycusis. The condition comes gradually as the person ages and is most likely a result of deterioration or changes “to the inner ear, auditory nerve, middle ear, or outer ear. Some of its causes are aging, loud noise, heredity, head injury, infection, illness, certain prescription drugs, and circulation problems such as high blood pressure.” Hearing problems must be treated immediately once noticed. It only becomes worse when left untreated and may result in permanent deafness. Treatments usually include hearing aids, assistive devices, surgical implants (Aging Care, 2008).
Lastly, among the graver diseases the elderly are predisposed to are diseases related to the degeneration of mental and nervous functions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive and fatal brain disease that destroy’s brain cells, causing problems with memory thinking and behavior. It is the most common form of dementia and as of today still has no cure. “Today it is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States” (Alzheimer’s Association, 2009). Like Alzheimer’s, Parkinsons disease is also a progressive loss of nerve cell function in the parts of the brain that involves managing muscle movement. Its symptoms include
[…] tremors or shaking as a result of the damage to their nerve cells. Tremors caused by Parkinson’s get worse when the person is at rest and better when the person moves. The tremor may affect one side of the body more than the other, and can affect the lower jaw, arms and legs. (American Academy of Family Physicians, 2008).
Also like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s etiology is also unknown and also like the former, it has no cure however medicines can help control the symptoms of the disease.
Aging Care. (2008). Health conditions: hearing loss. MediaBrains Inc. Retrieved on January 24, 2009 from http://www.agingcare.com/Health-Conditions/1197/Hearing-Loss/
Alzheimer’s Association. (2009). What is Alzheimer’s? Alzheimer’s Association. Retrieved on January 24, 2009 from http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_what_is_alzhei-mers.asp
American Academy of Family Physicians. (2008). Parkinson’s disease. Www.Family-Doctor.org. Retrieved on January 24, 2009 from http://familydoctor.org/
HealthScout Network. (2009). Health encyclopedia – diseases and conditions: cataracts. Retrieved on January 24, 2009 from http://www.healthscout.com/ency/68/114/
St. Luke’s Cataract & Laser Institute. (2008). Eye conditions: glaucoma. Www.StLukes.com. Retrieved on January 24, 2009 from www.stlukeseye.com/conditions/Glaucoma.asp
Wykle, M.L. (2007). Health disparities in late adulthood. University of Washington School of Nursing.
Cite this Common Diseases of Late Adulthood
Common Diseases of Late Adulthood. (2016, Sep 14). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/common-diseases-of-late-adulthood/