How Our Eyes and Vision Change as We AgeSeptember 21, 2022
Eye health is critical for seniors to maintain an independent and active lifestyle. As we get older, our eyes undergo changes that often interfere with our daily activities.
Let’s look at how our eyes change with age and, more importantly, what steps seniors can take to stop or slow down vision loss.
How age affects eyes and vision
The National Institute on Aging states that normal eye changes due to age should not increase vision problems. However, they recommend regular exams by an ophthalmologist or optometrist to catch abnormal issues early, which is key to treating eye conditions before they cause permanent damage and vision loss.
The most common age-related vision issues include:
Dry eyes – A feeling of scratchy, burning, or itchy eyes or leaking tears, which can often happen due to a tear duct infection or blockage.
Cataracts – Cloudy patches from the breakdown of fibers and proteins in the eye’s lens that cause hazy vision. Some cataracts remain small and don’t impair vision, while others can block vision completely.
Temporal arteritis – A life-threatening disease from inflammation and injury to blood vessels in the scalp, head, and neck, which causes vision loss, headaches, jaw pain, and fever.
Presbyopia – A diminished ability to auto-focus up close, due to loss of elasticity as the eye ages. The lens stops focusing light properly on the retina, causing blurry vision.
Macular degeneration – The loss of central vision, which humans rely on to see objects in sharp focus. Often genetic, this disease can severely restrict vision without treatment. Dry macular degeneration causes the central portion of the retina to deteriorate slowly. Wet macular degeneration is when blood vessels leak under the retina, causing a vision change.
Glaucoma – Glaucoma is fluid pressure that builds up inside the eye and leads to partial or total vision loss. Eye specialists can only spot glaucoma during a dilated eye exam.
Other eye problems that occur as we get older are:
- Losing the ability to distinguish between similar colors
- Having difficulty adjusting to different light levels
- Diabetic retinopathy
- Low vision
Diabetes can cause diabetic retinopathy, a slowly developing disease that damages blood vessels in the eye, causing dark spots, floaters, blurriness, and eventual blindness. The condition rarely triggers symptoms before vision loss and is only caught through a dilated eye exam.
Low vision is a term doctors use when glasses, contacts, medication, or surgery cannot fix the problem. People with age-related low vision have issues performing everyday tasks like reading, recognizing faces, cooking, or grooming. The only treatment for low vision is to increase light brightness and use magnifying devices.
Ways to maintain eye health
There are many ways to help keep your eyes healthy and prevent vision problems. Some simple tips include:
- Checking your medication
Discuss the impact your medication may have on eye function with your primary care doctor. Many medicines have side effects that cause vision problems that you could avert by switching to a different medication.
- Having a yearly dilated eye exam
Experts recommend people over 50 get a yearly dilated eye exam no matter how good their current vision seems. A complete look into eye structures and vessels is the best way to catch eye diseases or conditions at the earliest stage and to prescribe treatment, thus preventing further damage.
- Following eye-care professional treatment plans
To reduce or help correct vision problems, always follow your ophthalmologist or optometrist’s treatment plan. Skipping medication or treatments can quickly leave you with permanently impaired vision and loss of quality of life.
Depending on the condition, treatment may require taking extra vitamins, using medicated eye drops, or having surgery for cataracts or blocked tear ducts. In addition, oral medication can slow down the progression or control glaucoma, macular degeneration, and other optic diseases.
Lifestyle factors that promote eye health
Great eyesight is easier to maintain when the rest of your body is healthy. Follow these tips to reduce the chances of eye degeneration and vision loss associated with aging:
- Keep blood pressure and cholesterol under control
- Avoid dramatic blood sugar changes
- Quit smoking
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet
- Reduce alcohol intake
- Wear UV-protection sunglasses when outdoors
- Take an “eye break” when reading, using the computer, or watching TV (look across the room for 30 seconds)
Regular eye exams and a healthy lifestyle will help you maintain sharp eyesight as you age. If you have a family history of eye problems, it’s also important to get regular comprehensive dilated eye exams. These exams can help detect early signs of disease and allow for prompt treatment.
Everything you value most today—time for yourself, meaningful activity, personal independence, and days filled with options—is waiting for you at Monroe Village. Contact us to schedule a visit of our Life Plan Community in Monroe Township, NJ.