Wellness

3 Things to Know About Aging Eyes and Common Vision Problems

Older couple smiling and being affectionate.

As people age, they notice various health changes. In addition to experiencing aches, pains and medical problems, they also may notice changes in their vision after age 40. People may need prescription eyeglasses or contacts to help them see objects close up or far away. But after age 60, people need to watch for signs of diseases that could lead to vision loss. Consider three things to know about aging eyes and common vision problems.

  1. Eye diseases

    People can develop an eye disease at any age, but they occur more frequently after age 60. About 33% of seniors have a vision-reducing eye disease by age 65. These diseases tend to change people’s vision permanently, such as these six common vision problems:

  • Dry eye  – Many older people are diagnosed with dry eye disease. It’s a condition that occurs when the eyes don’t produce enough tears. Tears help keep eye surfaces moist and healthy so people can see clearly.
  • Age-related macular degeneration – The macula is one of the smallest parts of the eye, about 5 millimeters in diameter. It’s necessary to help people read, write, detect colors and see people’s faces. Age-related macular degeneration attacks the macula and causes central vision loss. However, the disease usually doesn’t affect peripheral or side vision.
  • Diabetic retinopathy – People with diabetes often develop this disease, which attacks the small blood vessels that keep the retina healthy. When damaged, these blood vessels leak fluid and blood that cause the retina to swell and cloud vision. Diabetic retinopathy usually affects both eyes and can cause blindness.
  • Glaucoma – This disease damages the optic nerve, causing peripheral or side vision loss. Glaucoma usually affects one eye and then the other one. If not treated, glaucoma can result in total vision loss. The disease is often called the silent stealer of sight. It’s painless with no apparent symptoms until significant vision loss occurs.
  • Cataracts – When a cloudy area develops on the eye’s clear lens, it’s called a cataract. Cataracts can develop in one or both eyes, with one eye worse than the other. People with cataracts can experience blurry vision, sensitivity to light, difficulty seeing in low-light situations, especially when driving at night, or notice that colors look dull.
  • Retinal detachment – It’s described as a tearing or separation of the tissue under the retina. A retinal detachment can develop suddenly when changes occur to the vitreous gel fluid in the back of the eye. A detached retina can develop from a head injury, advanced diabetes or an inflammatory eye problem. If it’s not treated quickly, permanent vision loss can occur.
  1. Age-related vision changes

    Vision changes can cause people to have problems driving, especially seniors. These issues can develop before they’re aware of a vision condition. Common signs include problems seeing road signs or the vehicle dashboard, difficulty adjusting to bright lights, judging distances and speed, trouble seeing in low light or at night, or loss of peripheral or side vision.

    Often, older people don’t recognize symptoms of eye diseases because they can see well. But that doesn’t mean they won’t develop vision problems. So, it’s best to get a yearly eye exam and watch for age-related vision changes. If any vision changes occur between annual exams, contact the eye doctor.

  1. Schedule annual eye exams

    The American Optometric Association recommends an annual comprehensive eye exam for everyone age 60 and older. During the exam, the eye doctor will conduct a series of tests to evaluate the healthiness of the eyes and screen for vision correction needs. These tests provide a baseline for the eye doctor to detect even slight vision changes in the future.
    More women than men are likely to suffer from vision issues that can threaten their sight. But few women are aware of it. Learn about five problems with the eyes that women face as they age.

Sources:
American Optometric Association
American Family Physician