What To Expect From Your Eyes As You Age
There is absolutely no doubt that overall health is a primary factor for your future vision. Medical conditions and diseases like heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes all take a toll on the health of your eyes. However, some age-related eye and vision changes can’t be avoided.
12 Things You Can Expect From Your Eyes As You Age
The more you focus on a healthy diet and lifestyle choices, the better off your eyes will be. That said, here are 12 things you can expect from your eyes as you age.
You’ll probably wear glasses or contacts at some point
While many children and young adults cruise through their first two to three decades without needing glasses, more than half of us will need them by the time we’re 35. By the time we reach 55 years old and older, nearly 80% of us will need prescription lenses to see clearly.
Difficulty reading the fine print
By the time you approach your 50th year, odds are you’ll struggle to read the fine print. This is due to completely normal changes in the lens, which hardens as we age. The harder the lens is, the less it can change shape to focus. Farsightedness (presbyopia) increases as a result of the changes in the lens. Prescription lenses, adequate lighting, and enlarging fonts on screens all help this out.
Keeping up with annual eye exam appointments is the best way to catch farsightedness before it begins causing eye strain, headaches, or inability to participate in your favorite hobbies.
Dry eyes as you age
Age-related hormonal changes affect overall hydration and lubrication production throughout the body. While it’s most prevalent in post-menopausal women, dry eyes affect seniors more than younger adults. Keep a bottle of preservative-free artificial tears on-hand to keep eyes moist and lubricated.
Difficulty seeing at night
Odds are you remember being confused when you were a child and your parents or grandparents made comments about their struggle to see at night. This is another age-related vision change. While we aren’t 100% sure why research indicates that the cells responsible for low-light vision (rod cells) grow weaker with age.
Make sure your corrective lenses have reduced-glare features, which help minimize light halos that exacerbate nighttime issues.
Sensitivity to light
Similarly, older adults are more sensitive to light. That’s why halos appear around lights in the dark when you’re driving. Certain eye conditions increase light sensitivity. You can protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses and broad-brimmed hats, installing dimmers on bright lights in the house, and using glare protection on screens.
The emergence of spots and floaters
Most of the time, the presence of spots and floaters is no cause for concern. You may even see small, inexplicable flashes of light. The same decrease in mucous/lubrication fluids resulting from hormone changes also affects the consistency of the vitreous - the liquid-like jelly that fills the center of the eyeball. Thick patches float across the field of vision, appearing as spots, floaters, or flashes.
People over age 60 usually start to have some clouding of their lenses, though vision problems may not happen until years later. The more cloudy the inside of the lens becomes, the more severe the cataract(s) and degree of vision loss. Without treatment, which frequently means a simple cataract procedure, cataracts eventually cause blindness.
Red eyes or irritated eye tissues
Any combination of eye strain, light sensitivity, dry eyes, or other age-related conditions may cause red or irritated eyes. Hormonal changes also make seniors more prone to swollen, irritated eyelids (blepharitis) that may look similar to an eye infection. Protecting your eyes from irritants, using warm moist compresses and artificial tears is the best treatment for red, irritated eyes and eyelids that aren’t infected.
Diabetic eye disease
Again, it’s time to focus on lifestyle. According to the CDC, more than 10% of Americans have type 2 diabetes. Unlike type 1, genetically inherited and diagnosed in the first two decades, type 2 diabetes is almost 100% related to lifestyle choices - namely, unhealthy diets and not enough exercise.
The risk of type 2 diabetes increases with age, and nearly 27% of Americans 65 and over have it. Unfortunately, diabetic retinopathy - leading to vision loss - is almost unavoidable because high blood sugar damages vision cells.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
This is the leading cause of vision loss in adults 50 years and older. People with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) lose their central vision, while the peripheral vision typically remains normal. There are two different types of AMD. Most patients (80%) have dry AMD, which is very treatable. Others have wet AMD, which is more serious.
Again, lifestyle plays a role in your risk. For example, those with AMD typically eat diets high in saturated fats, are overweight, have high blood pressure, and/or smoke(d) cigarettes.
Glaucoma can be diagnosed at any age but is most prevalent in seniors. It occurs when fluid builds up in the front part of the eye and creates pressure. Eventually, consistent pressure due to glaucoma damages the optic nerve. The good news is that if it’s caught early enough, glaucoma is treated successfully. This is one of the reasons we do pressure testing during eye exams. Most people never know they have it because symptoms don’t emerge until many later stages when vision changes or loss cannot be recovered.
Loss of contrast perception (objects fade into the background)
As you age you’ll likely begin to lose the ability to clearly distinguish similarly colored objects in the foreground and background. This is the result of the loss of contrast sensitivity. In some cases, it also causes a loss of depth perception, which is why it’s helpful to paint a contrasting color on the edge of a stairway, helping each step to stand out from the rest.
Schedule Your Next Appointment With Eye To Eye Family Vision Care
Annual eye exams are the best way to catch age-related eye and vision changes while they’re in the early stages. Are you overdue? Contact Eye to Eye Family Vision Care to schedule your next appointment.