10 Ways Your Eyes Change With Age
As we get older, our eyes change, and this affects our vision. Your eye doctor can monitor these changes (some of which are a natural part of the aging process) and identify eye conditions or diseases early enough to treat them and prevent vision loss. Read on to learn more about the different types of eye changes one may encounter with age.
Age-Related Eye Conditions and Diseases
If your vision is starting to get blurry, you may be developing cataracts. Protein buildup on the once-clear crystalline lens, a small transparent disc inside your eye, creates cloudy patches. Over time these patches become bigger and, if left untreated, can eventually lead to blindness. Luckily, cataract surgery (where the cloudy lens is replaced with a clear lens) is extremely safe and effective.
Macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss among seniors. This happens when the small central portion of your retina, called the macula, no longer functions effectively as the retinal nerves start to deteriorate. The sooner AMD is diagnosed, the higher the chances of maintaining your clear vision.
Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve. This damage is usually permanent and often caused by abnormally high pressure in your eye. It can lead to significant vision loss, including blindness. Scheduling regular eye exams can help catch glaucoma early, so that it can be treated before it causes damage.
Diabetic retinopathy occurs when high blood sugar levels damage blood vessels in the retina. These blood vessels can swell and leak into the back of your eye. Left untreated, this can rapidly lead to vision loss, even blindness. Keeping blood sugar levels under control and careful monitoring by your eye doctor can prevent or limit the damage.
This occurs when the gel-like vitreous inside the eye begins to liquefy and pull away from the retina, causing "spots and floaters" and, sometimes, flashes of light. This occurrence is usually harmless, but floaters and flashes of light can also signal the beginning of a detached retina — a serious problem that can cause blindness. If you experience flashes and floaters, see your eye doctor immediately to determine the cause.
Other Age-Related Changes
In addition to the above eye conditions and diseases, our vision and the structure of our eyes change as we get older.
People in their 40s and 50s may have more difficulty focusing on near objects like books and phone screens. This is because the lens inside the eye begins to lose its ability to change shape. This process is called presbyopia (also known as age-related farsightedness). As time goes on, presbyopia will become more pronounced and you will eventually need glasses to see clearly. You may need multiple prescriptions - one prescription to enable you to see up close, one for intermediate distance, and one for distance vision.
Reduced pupil size
As we age, our reaction to light and the muscles that control our pupil size lose some strength. This causes the pupil to become smaller and less responsive to changes in ambient lighting.
The result? Difficulty in clearly seeing objects, such as a menu, in a low-light setting like a restaurant.
Our tear glands produce fewer tears and deliver less oil into our eyes as we get older. Your eye doctor can determine whether your dry eye is age-related or due to another condition, and prescribe prescription eye drops or other effective and lasting treatments to alleviate the dryness and restore comfort.
Loss of peripheral vision
Aging causes a decrease of our peripheral vision by approximately 1-3 degrees per decade of life. You may experience a peripheral visual field loss of 20-30 degrees by the time you reach your 70s and 80s. While peripheral vision loss is a normal part of aging, it can also indicate the presence of a serious eye disease.
Decreased color vision
The cells in the retina responsible for normal color vision tend to decline as we age, causing colors to become less bright and the contrast between different colors to be less noticeable. Though a normal part of aging, less vibrant colors can at times signal a more serious ocular problem.
Routine eye exams are essential to keeping your eyes healthy. Your eye doctor can determine whether your symptoms are caused by an eye problem or are a byproduct of aging.
If you or a loved one suffers from impaired vision, know that we can help you regain independence and start doing the things you love again. To find out more and to schedule your appointment, contact The Low Vision Center at Family Eyecare Center of Optometry today.
The Low Vision Center at Family Eyecare Center of Optometry serves patients from Los Angeles, Westchester, El Segundo, Playa Del Rey, and throughout California.