Do Our Eyes Change as We Get Older?
Beginning in the early to mid-40s, many adults may start to have issues seeing clearly, especially when reading and working on a digital device. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, adults develop this typical problem between 41 to 60. This average change in the eye’s focusing ability, called presbyopia, will continue to progress over time. Fortunately, people with presbyopia now have many options to improve their vision.
Many adults in this age group may need to hold reading materials farther away to see them. Seeing the print in your favorite book or reviewing a restaurant menu may appear blurred, especially under dim lighting.
It is critical as we get older to make your eye health a priority and schedule an eye exam with your eye doctor to check for developing eye and vision problems. Don’t delay in seeing your eye doctor because you may not have any issues. Be proactive; your eyes will love you for it!
Who Is at Risk for Developing Eye Problems?
Adults over 40 who have the following health concerns may be particularly at risk for developing eye and vision problems:
- Chronic, systemic conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure
- A family history of glaucoma or macular degeneration
- Health conditions related to high cholesterol, thyroid, anxiety, or arthritis for which medications are taken, many of these conditions’ medicines have vision side effects.
Understanding Age-Related Eye Issues
Just like our bodies, our eyes and vision changes over time. Not everyone will experience the same symptoms, but here are a few common age-related vision changes:
- Need for more light. As you age, you need more light to see as well as you used to. Brighter lights in your work area or next to your reading chair will help make reading and other close-up tasks easier.
- Difficulty reading and doing close work. Printed materials can become less clear, in part because the lens in your eye becomes less flexible over time. The result makes it harder for your eyes to focus on near objects than when you were younger.
- Problems with a glare. When driving, you may notice additional glare from headlights at night or the sun reflecting off windshields or pavement during the day. Changes in your eyesight cause light entering the eye to be scattered rather than focused precisely on the retina; this creates more glare.
- Changes in color perception. The clear lens located inside your eye may start to discolor. The discoloration makes it harder to see and distinguish between certain color shades.
- Reduced tear production. With age, the tear glands in your eyes will produce fewer tears. Decreased tear production affects women who are experiencing hormone changes. As a result, your eyes may feel dry and irritated. Having an adequate amount of tears is essential for keeping your eyes healthy and for maintaining clear sight.
What Are the Warning Signs of Eye Health Problems?
The following symptoms could be the early warning signs of a serious eye health problem as we age.
- Fluctuating vision – Frequent changes in how clearly you can see maybe a sign of diabetes or hypertension (high blood pressure). These chronic conditions can damage the tiny blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive layer at the back of the eye. This vision loss can sometimes be permanent.
- Seeing floaters and flashes – Seeing spots or floaters in your eyes of shadowy images of particles floating in the fluid that fills the inside of the eye. Although they can be bothersome, spots and floaters typically don’t harm vision. This is a natural part of the eye’s aging process. If you suddenly see more floaters than usual, along with bright, flashing lights, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor immediately to prevent.
- Loss of side vision – Losing peripheral or side vision may be a sign of glaucoma. Glaucoma occurs when the optic nerve is damaged and no longer transmits all visual images to the brain. It often has no symptoms until damage to your vision has begun.
- Seeing distorted images – Straight lines that appear distorted or wavy or an empty area in the center of your vision could be signs of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The disease affects the macula, which is the part of your retina that is responsible for central vision. The condition causes a blind spot in the middle of your field of vision. Regular eye examinations, early diagnosis, and treatment of eye diseases can help you preserve good eye health throughout your life.
Your Eye Health Matters
A healthy diet and wise lifestyle choices, such as not smoking, are your best defenses against your eye health as you age. Make your eye health a priority, and be sure to schedule an eye exam. During your appointment, be sure to discuss all your concerns about your eyes and vision with your eye doctor. Also, it is imperative to tell your eye doctor about any history of eye problems in your family and what medications you are taking, including non-prescription medicines, vitamins, or herbs. This information will help your eye doctor to give appropriate recommendations to keep your eyes healthy.
References: American Academy of Ophthalmology and American Optometric Association
The content is researched and vetted by the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Optometric Association. This blog provides information and discussion about eye health and related subjects. The content provided on this blog and any linked materials are not intended and should not be considered medical advice. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, they should consult with an appropriately licensed physician.