Ageing and decline of body functions

Ageing and decline of body functions


Yes, it is a stated medical fact that as we clock 50, some of our body functions begin to diminish, but the way we live, and what we consume thereafter, could either mitigate or accelerate the decline, barring any chronic illnesses. So if you are above 50, please spare five minutes to read this.

What happens to the senses as we age?

According to Man’s Body by the Diagrams Group, the physical atrophy that occurs with age also affects the five senses. As the nervous system degenerates through neuron loss – touch, taste, hearing, vision and smell become less sensitive. This does not affect the body’s physiological functioning, but may have dangerous consequences (eg an impaired sense of smell may mean that escaping gas is not detected on time by us). More serious sensory loss, though comes from severe illnesses brought about by, or occurring in, old age, and affecting the more complicated sense organs such as eye and ear.

As you age, your senses become less sharp, and this can make it harder for you to notice details. Sensory changes can affect your lifestyle. The frailty of old age and degeneration of the senses have always been the argument presented by Europe and America on why their elders are sent to old-peoples-home. While Africa and Asia are still stuck with extended family system. Now let us look at individual senses as we age.

A) Hearing.

1) • Presbyacusis is the main term for hearing loss as a direct result of old age. It is due to a combination of loss of elasticity and efficiency in the actual hearing mechanisms. And the slowing down of mental activities that old age brings. Mechanical losses especially affect the ability to detect high frequency sounds. By the age of 60 years, hearing of these high frequency sounds, has been reduced by 75 per cent, though normal conversation and most other everyday sounds can still be distinguished with only slight distortion. Advice – no treatment is required.

2) • Otitis Externa – this is infection of the outer ear, it is especially common in the aged, due partly to hearing-aid-ear pieces, that fit badly, and are too infrequently used. In Africa dirty sleeping environment is the main culprit. Treatment – clean all hearing aids frequently and treat all infections with sensitive antibiotics.

B) Seeing.

1) • Presbyopia – this is the term for the natural changes in the eye, that result from old age. The most common(apart from the general loss of efficiency with age), is hardening of lens. From the age of about 10 years onward the lens gradually loses its elasticity, and so its ability to focus on objects close at hand. Treatment – spectacles with convex lenses are then needed for close work such as reading.

2) • Cataracts – This is an opacity in the lens of the eye. It is caused by deficiencies in the lens proteins, resulting in a special type of hardening and shrinkage at the center of the lens. The lens cracks and disintegrates, so losing its transparency. The process spreads from the center outwards, and impairment of vision increases as the opaque area(the cataract) spreads. Cataracts occur in most people over 60 years of age, though they are usually too small to have a significant effect on sight.

3) • Glaucoma – This occurs most frequently after the age of 50 years. It is caused by a build up of the fluid pressure in the eye. The fluid that fills the eye, the aqueous humor is normally being continually drained away and replaced by fresh fluid.

Drainage takes place along the “canal of Schlemm”, which lies at the junction of the iris and cornea. But sometimes the canal becomes blocked, through inflammation of the eye or swelling of the lens pushing the iris forward. The amount of fluid in the eye then increases as secretion of fresh fluid continues. Pressure builds up, damaging the optical disc and the visual fibers of the retina.

Loss of vision is first experienced in the peripheral field, and spreads gradually to the whole visual field. Glaucoma runs in the family. Treatment – eye-drop (timoptol) and surgery.

4) Senile Macular Dystrophy (SMD) – The Macular lutea is a small yellowish area of the retina,and the fovea lies in the centre. Here visual perception is most perfect, and differentiation of minute objects take place here, example reading or viewing.

Senile Macular dystrophy is a degeneration of this area, due to impaired blood supply as a result of age. It is the common eye disorder in the old. Treatment – surgery. We should all look after our old.

Source: The Sun

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