The aging process is a catalyst for many physical changes, including some that cause health problems. For this edition of Q&A, Dr. Lily Chaisompong, a specialist in geriatric medicine at Bumrungrad, answers readers’ questions on age-related health issues.
Q: I’ve heard several people say that if your vision is nearsighted when you’re young, it eventually shifts back toward normal, or even to farsightedness, when you’re older. Is this true?
A: This is a fairly common miscon-ception. Myopia (nearsightedness) and hyperopia (farsightedness) result from improper shaping of the eyes which affects the way light focuses on the retina. Another eye disorder, presbyopia (farsightedness resulting from aging), causes the eyes to lose their ability to reshape the lens accurately, making it difficult to focus clearly on close objects.
If you have myopia, presbyopia provides no help in reducing near-sightedness. In fact, correcting the two conditions requires concave lenses for nearsightedness and convex lenses for farsightedness. That’s why many seniors wear bifocal glasses incorporating two lenses, so the eyes can focus on objects both near and far.
Q: My mother has trouble sleeping at night and usually takes a nap during the day. Could napping cause her poor nighttime sleep? Or is napping good for catching up on lost sleep?
A: Research suggests that napping during the day can alleviate fatigue and boost energy while helping support proper brain function. A daytime nap can also improve the quality of nighttime sleep.
It’s best to nap for no more than two hours, and avoid napping after 3 p.m. to prevent affecting nighttime sleep. Napping aside, sleeping well at night remains very important to good health. As day turns to night, the darker atmosphere prompts the pituitary gland to produce hormones that control a number of body functions.
Ask your mother how she feels after a night’s sleep. Instead of feeling refreshed, if she feels tired when waking up, and the feeling continues throughout the day, she should be evaluated by a doctor.
Q: My father will soon turn 60, and recently he’s been complaining about having to urinate frequently and feeling listless. Is this normal for a man his age?
A: It’s normal to urinate about four to eight times a day. If your frequency is higher, or if you wake up in the middle of the night to urinate, it may simply be that you drank too much before bedtime. In other cases, the symptoms may indicate a medical problem such as early-stage diabetes, an overactive or inflamed bladder, a prostate condition, or in rare cases, bladder cancer. For a more complete picture of your father’s situation, ask him the following questions:
• Is he taking any medications that increase urination frequency? Certain medications, including some anti-hypertensive drugs, contain diuretic substances which can increase urine discharge;
• Does his urine contain blood, or is it dark or cloudy?
• Does he have other symptoms such as fatigue, pain while urinating, fever, chills, or pain originating from his back or abdomen?
• Has he experienced other urinary hesitancy such as dribbling, weaker flow, leakage, or the need for more time and effort to empty his bladder?
• Has his thirst or appetite increased noticeably?
• If your father answers “yes” to any of these questions, he should consult a doctor.
• If he’s diagnosed with a medical condition, the doctor will recommend the best course of treatment for your father’s individual situation.
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