Most people are aware that we should take extra care of our joints, bones, and heart as we age. However, our eyes are also affected by aging. More than 12 million adults over the age of 40 suffer from vision impairment in the United States, and age-related vision changes become more common over the age of 60. It is important to have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at the age of 40 and regular examinations after that based on your risk and conditions. You should also watch for concerning symptoms and catch vision problems early to help maintain good vision as you age.
Common Vision Problems as You Age
It’s important to be aware of the common vision problems associated with aging so you can recognize concerning symptoms and consult your eye doctor before serious issues arise. Below are the most common age-related vision problems of which to be aware.
As we age, the eye lens loses elasticity, making it more difficult to focus on things that are close up, such as reading or using your phone. Typically, symptoms of presbyopia start around age 40. There is no way to stop or reverse the normal aging process that causes presbyopia, but it can be corrected with eyeglasses, contact lenses, or surgery. If you find yourself holding things further away from your face to read, consult your eye doctor about presbyopia.
Adults over the age of 65 often experience chronic dry eye. The natural aging process can cause the eyes to produce insufficient or poor quality tears. This can cause a lack of lubrication in the eyes, leaving them feeling dry, red, and sensitive. Dry eyes can be treated with artificial tear solutions and eye drops. To reduce symptoms, stay hydrated, use a humidifier in your home, wear sunglasses, and remember to blink often while looking at a screen for extended periods of time.
More than half of Americans ages 80 and older have had cataracts. Around age 40, the proteins in the lens of your eye begin to break down. Over time, this causes a cloudy area called a cataract to develop in the lens of your eye. Cataracts can cause blurry, hazy, or less colorful vision. This can make reading and other daily activities difficult, which is why it is important to have regular eye exams and identify cataracts early.
To protect your eyes from cataracts, remember to wear sunglasses, avoid smoking, and eat healthy foods, especially dark leafy greens. Surgical removal of cataracts is the only effective treatment and there are premium cataract surgery options available that can help reduce your dependence on glasses or contacts by addressing presbyopia, nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism.
Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness for people over the age of 60. Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions linked to elevated eye pressure that damages the optic nerve, causing blind spots, tunnel vision, headaches, eye pain, nausea, and blurred vision. There are multiple types and stages of glaucoma, but it is important to catch it early, as glaucoma can cause blindness when left untreated. Make sure you have a regular comprehensive eye exam if over the age of 40. If glaucoma runs in your family, let your eye doctor know. They will recommend the right screening schedule for you.
More than 10 million Americans are affected by age-related macular degeneration, and it is one of the leading causes of vision loss for people ages 50 and older. Macular degeneration causes damage to the macula, the part of the eye responsible for clear, central vision. This condition can make it difficult to see in dim or harsh lighting and causes central vision to become blurry or dark. Late-stage macular degeneration is typically treated with injections, however, it’s important to track the progression of the disease. Your eye doctor can work with you to track changes and slow down its progression.
For people with diabetes, it is important to pay attention to any vision changes as you age. Diabetic retinopathy is a diabetes complication caused by damage to the blood vessels of the retina. As diabetic retinopathy progresses, it can cause floaters, blurred vision, dark spots, and vision loss. Careful management of diabetes is the best way to prevent diabetic retinopathy, but it is important to notify your eye doctor right away of any changes in vision that may be concerning.
Flashes and Floaters
As we age, the vitreous, or jelly-like substance that fills the middle of the eye, begins to thicken and shrink. This can cause the vitreous to pull away from the back of the eye or pull on the retina, resulting in flashes and floaters. Floaters are small specks, dots, circles, lines, or cobwebs in the field of vision whereas flashes appear to be flashing lights or lightning streaks in the field of vision. Flashes can sometimes be caused by migraines. Floaters and flashes typically resolve on their own over time, however, severe cases can be treated with surgery.