Age and Your Eye Health
It is normal for you to experience changes in your vision throughout your life, and as you age, your risk of developing certain eye conditions increases as well. For most people, changes in their eyes begin in their early to mid-40s and will continue into their early 60s. The most common visual change in older adults is difficulty seeing things close by, primarily when reading or working on a computer. This is a condition called presbyopia, a normal change in your eye’s ability to focus. This happens when the lens of your eye loses some of its flexibility, making it more difficult for your eyes to shift easily from objects far away to objects nearby. Typical symptoms include difficulty reading print materials including books, newspapers or menus, especially in dim light. You may find yourself holding objects away from you in order to see more clearly. Once it develops, presbyopia will continue to progress as you age. Individuals who already wear glasses or contact lenses may need to switch to bifocal or multifocal lenses for help with near and far distances. Those who haven’t needed contacts or glasses in the past may need to use reading glasses moving forward.
You may also notice some other common age-related visual changes including:
- Needing more light to see clearly. Using brighter lights in any workspaces or areas you plan to read in can help.
- Experiencing sensitivity to glare, including headlights while driving, or the sun reflection during the day. This is due to changes in the lens of your eyes that cause the light entering your eye to scatter.
- Color perception changes. The lens of your eye is normally clear, but as you age, it may become discolored. This makes it more challenging to differentiate between colors or shades of colors.
In addition to vision changes, older adults are also more likely to develop eye conditions including:
- Cataracts, which occur when your lens becomes cloudy, and causes vision to appear blurry and colors to seem faded.
- Diabetic eye disease, which is the leading cause of blindness. The most common form is known as diabetic retinopathy and develops when diabetes damages the blood vessels in your retina.
- Dry eye, which is the result of lowered tear-production, and can make certain activities like reading or using a computer uncomfortable.
- Glaucoma, which is a disease that can damage your optic nerve and cause vision loss or blindness. Individuals with glaucoma typically have increased eye pressure and may experience impaired peripheral vision as well.
- Macular degeneration, which is a disease that over time, impacts your central vision which is needed to see objects clearly.
Your eyes undergo significant changes as you age. It is important to complete an annual, comprehensive eye exam to monitor for any eye or vision problems that may be developing. You may be at a higher risk to develop certain eye conditions if you have any of the following:
- A chronic medical condition, like diabetes or high blood pressure
- Are taking medications to manage conditions like high cholesterol, thyroid issues, anxiety or depression (it is not uncommon for certain medications to have visual side effects)
- A family history of glaucoma or macular degeneration
- A job that is very visually demanding or may expose you to potential eye-hazards
Eye and vision changes often continue to progress until about the age of 60. To make an appointment with an ophthalmologist to discuss any changes you may be experiencing with your eyes, call 630-322-8300 or online at www.dupagemedicalgroup.com/services/ophthalmology.