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Aging & Eyesight: What to Expect and How to Improve Your Eyesight

Aging brings with it a lot of health issues. As you approach midlife, ophthalmologist visits will likely become more frequent because of changes in your body.

How Aging Affects Your Eyes

First, you will probably have difficulties focusing on close objects, and your peripheral vision may have decreased by 20 degrees by the time you enter your 70s.

Reduced near vision is because the lenses inside your eyes harden and become less flexible with age, losing their ability to change focus. Further, your eyes become more dry, leading to some eye conditions like corneal abrasion, corneal ulcers and inflammation.

As of mid-2020, more than 4.2 million Americans aged 40 years or older had common visual disorders.

Signs of Age-Related Vision Changes

If you’re above 40, you may have started:

  • Placing a magazine or cellphone at arm’s length to see clearly

  • Straining to see objects up close

  • Finding it hard to distinguish colors

  • Becoming sensitive to bright light

  • Having blurry vision with dim lights


Common Age-Related Vision Issues

Refractive Errors

Refractive errors refer to a group of eye problems that make it hard for light rays to focus on the retina (a light-sensitive layer of cells at the back of the eye that receive and organize information).

"Refractive errors are the most common eye problem in the US, affecting more than 150 million Americans" - National Eye Institute

If the lens is defective or inflexible, you will experience common sight issues such as farsightedness (hyperopia), nearsightedness (myopia), or astigmatism. Middle-aged people tend to experience presbyopia, where distant vision is better than up close.

Farsightedness

The condition makes your eyes focus more on distant objects than near ones. People with mild to moderate farsightedness see near objects with difficulty. On the other hand, severe farsightedness only allows you to see objects from a greater distance. Treatment: glasses, contact lenses, or laser surgery such as LASIK.

Nearsightedness

With myopia, you can see near objects clearly as distant ones appear fuzzy. Myopia is among the most common vision issues. A severely curved cornea, a transparent layer of tissue covering the front part of the eye, or an abnormally long eyeball cause the condition. The two prevent the correct focusing of light rays onto the retina. Treatment: glasses, contact lenses, refractive surgery (such as LASIK), or nonsurgical therapy.

Astigmatism

Astigmatism happens when you have an oddly shaped lens or the cornea is not evenly curved, losing its ability to focus light onto the retina correctly. That leads to:

  • Objects appearing blurry, regardless of distance

  • Squinting and straining

  • Difficulty in focusing on reading items for long

Treatment: corrective lenses or laser surgery.

Presbyopia

Presbyopia describes a condition where middle-aged people can see distant objects more clearly than near objects. As age sets in, the lens becomes rigid and unable to correctly focus light onto the retina. Symptoms:

  • Difficulty in focusing on reading materials up close

  • Headache or eye fatigue from focusing on near objects

  • Close objects appear blurry

Treatment: reading glasses, bifocals, progressive lenses, or contact lenses.


Common Age-Related Eye Diseases/Disorders

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a group of eye disorders that cause gradual damage to the optic nerve, the nerve at the back of the eye that relays the visual information from the retina to the brain. Increased fluid pressure within the eye is associated with this disorder. People of color aged 40 and above are at a higher risk of suffering from the condition as are people with thinner corneas and chronic eye inflammation.

Symptoms Glaucoma symptoms include:

  • Loss of side vision

  • Blurred vision and light sensitivity

  • Watery or red eyes

Treatment While the disorder is incurable, you may use prescribed eye drops or undergo laser surgery to alter the damage to the optic nerve.

Retinal Disorders

They are a group of visual disorders that affect the retina, including:

  • Retinal tear: when the retinal tissue breaks.

  • Diabetic retinopathy: happens when the retina swells after a fluid leak caused by damaged blood capillaries in diabetic patients.

  • Macular degeneration: caused when the central part of the retina degenerates.

Causes Causes include:

  • Aging

  • Obesity

  • Smoking

  • Conditions like diabetes

Symptoms Symptoms include:

  • Poor side vision

  • Blurry vision

  • Vision loss

Treatment The primary treatments are:

  • Laser surgery

  • Draining of the leaking fluid

  • Implantation of retinal prosthesis


Cataracts

A cataract describes a visual disorder caused by changes in the lens that come with aging and other health problems. The lens becomes clouded, making it more difficult to focus light onto the retina. Therefore, the protein and fiber components within the lens break down to form clumps, creating blurry vision. While age is a common cause, other health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity are potential causes. Symptoms Cataract symptoms:

  • Blurry vision

  • Increased light sensitivity

  • Hard to see at night or with dim lights

Prevention There are a few tips to prevent cataracts. Some are:

  • Seek treatment for diseases that cause cataracts

  • Add more fruits and vegetables to your diet

  • Regular eye checkup

Age Ranges

Eye Disorder

Treatment

40 and above

Presbyopia

Computer eye strain & dry eye

– Get a dilated eye checkup – Use reading glasses

– Comprehensive eye checkup and foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids

50 and above

Macular degeneration and cataracts

– More frequent eye exams

60 and above

More susceptible to age-related eye disorders: glaucoma, cataracts, dry eye, retinal disorders. Distorted vision caused by eye floaters and spots

– Check with your primary doctor to be safe from conditions that lead to these eye disorders

– Check with your eye care doctor

70 and above

Cataracts Difficulty in distinguishing colors and reduced vision fields

Surgery

– Check with your eye care doctor for properly prescribed eyewear


Low Vision

A person with low vision has vision loss that they can’t correct even when using the best vision correction equipment available. Low vision is more prevalent among adults aged 40 and above.

Tips to Prevent Age-Related Vision Issues

  • Check with your eye care professional every time you experience any symptoms cited above.

  • Get regular eye examinations. This will help in early detection of eye health issues

  • Get dilated eye exams more frequently once you are 60 and above.

  • Make regular tests for other diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes before they start to become a threat to your vision health.

  • You want to use a proper prescription for contact lenses and eyeglasses.


Tips for Healthy Eyes at Any Age

  • Quit smoking to be aware of any eye conditions that might come as the result of blood clots.

  • Avoid junk food and maintain a healthy diet.

  • Remain physically active.

  • Take your eyes off the computer screen every 20 minutes.

  • Wear sunglasses or wide-brimmed hats on sunny days to protect your eyes from ultraviolet radiation.


What to Do If You Notice Issues With Your Vision

Be sure to check with an eye care professional if you notice the slightest changes in your vision, as the changes could be sign of even more severe complications. The earlier you get examined, the better.

Low Vision Aids Available

  • Handheld and electronic video magnifiers

  • Book magnifiers like optical/magnifying low vision aids

  • Magnifying reading glasses

  • Modified telescopes

Your eye care professional will prescribe which aid will best suit you.


References
  1. Common Visual Disorders Statistics. (June 2020). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  2. Common Eye Issues. (August 2020). National Eye Institute.

  3. Myopia Prevalence. (January 2021). American Optometric Association.

  4. Presbyopia Definition. (September 2020). National Eye Institute.

  5. Glaucoma Causes and Risk Factors. (August 2020). Healthlink British Columbia.

  6. Low Vision Prevalence. (December 2013). National Center for Biotechnology Information.



Last Updated April 8, 2022 by https://myvision.org/

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