How Does Aging Affect Your Eyes?
Aging causes changes in every part of your body, including your eyes. Although adjusting to some of these changes is no more difficult than tweaking your eyeglass prescription, others can affect your eye health. These age-related eye problems are particularly common.
Reading glasses become a necessity for most people at some point during their 40s. The problem occurs due to a condition called presbyopia. As you age, the lens inside your eye begins to harden, which makes it more difficult for your eyes to focus.
Changes related to aging can also cause your eyes to become drier, particularly if you are a woman who has gone through menopause. Dry eyes burn and itch. You may notice that you develop eyestrain when you use the computer or read because of your dry eyes. Lubricating eye drops can help relieve your symptoms.
Have you ever noticed tiny pieces of string floating across your field of vision? These tiny specks are called “floaters” and occur when the vitreous, the gel-like substance inside your eye, starts to shrink slightly. When this happens, the vitreous sheds small strands, which then float back and forth across your visual field. Floaters are generally harmless; however, if you suddenly see a large number of floaters or notice that floaters are accompanied by flashing lights, see your optometrist as soon as possible. These symptoms can occur if you experience a vitreous or retinal detachment.
Cataracts occur when the lens at the center of your eye becomes cloudy. If your cataract becomes large enough and interferes with your vision, your optometrist will probably recommend surgery to remove it. During cataract surgery, the cloudy lens is replaced with an artificial lens.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration causes changes to the macula, the area of your retina that controls central vision. If you have this condition, you may notice that your central vision is blurry, or there are blank spots in your central vision. When you have age-related macular degeneration, it can be hard to read, drive or recognize faces. There are two forms of macular degeneration: dry and wet. Anti-oxidant supplements may be recommended if you have the dry form. Preventing blood vessels in the macula from leaking is the goal of treatment for the wet form. Laser treatments to seal vessels and injections that prevent new blood vessels from forming can help.
If you have diabetes, it’s important to be aware of the signs of diabetic retinopathy, which include blurred vision, trouble with night vision and dark spots in your center vision. The condition occurs when small vessels in your retina leak blood or fluids, clouding your vision.
Glaucoma occurs when the pressure in your eye is too high and can lead to permanent vision loss. In many cases, people do not have any symptoms initially. Glaucoma can be detected with a simple test at your optometrist’s office. If you are diagnosed with the condition, prescription medications, eye drops or surgery can help preserve your vision.
Changes to Peripheral Vision
As you age, your peripheral, or side, vision decreases by as much as 20 to 30 degrees by your 70s or 80s. Loss of peripheral vision can make it more difficult to do many things, including driving. Although there is nothing you can do about peripheral vision loss, it’s important to be aware of your new limitations.
Are you concerned about vision changes related to aging? Call us and schedule an appointment for a comprehensive vision exam, including glaucoma testing.
3 Tips to Preserve Your Eyesight
Maintaining good vision is important as you age. Protect your eyesight by following these tips:
See Your Eye Doctor Every Year
Your optometrist will examine your eyes and look for any conditions that could affect your eyesight. During a comprehensive eye exam, your eye doctor will dilate your eyes, in addition to updating your eyeglass or contact lens prescription. Dilation allows him or her to look for changes in your retina, macula and optic nerve.
Visit Your Family Doctor Also
Several health conditions, including diabetes and high blood pressure, can damage the eyes if untreated. These conditions are often detected during a visit to your doctor. If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure or diabetes, prompt treatment can help you avoid damage to your eyes.
Sunglasses do more than shield your eyes from glare. They also protect you from the damaging effects of ultraviolet light. UV light exposure can contribute to the formation of cataracts and macular degeneration. Make sure your sunglasses block 100 percent of UV-A and UV-B rays.