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Common eye problems as we age

It is safe to say our eyes are pretty essential. As humans we rely heavily on our vision.

That could be the reason why people who have poor vision also have higher rates of depression, more falls and fractures, increased need for support and will most likely need to go into care at an earlier age. Safe to say that good vision relates to a certain degree of independence.

Just as physical strength begins to decrease as we are, our eyes also show signs of age-related decline in performance.

Through your 40s you may begin to notice that it is more difficult to focus on object up close. This is because of Presbyopia – a normal loss of focusing ability that is caused by the hardening of the lens inside your eye. As Presbyopia advances you may find a need for glasses or even have surgery to correct this issue.

Cataracts are also a very common aged-related condition. According to Mayo Clinic, about half of all 65-year-old Americans have some degree of cataract formation in their eyes. As you enter your 70s, the percentage is even higher. It’s estimated that by 2020 more than 30 million Americans will have cataracts – That’s a lot! Luckily the modern cataract surgery is extremely safe and effective. So, if you are noticing vision changes due to cataracts, contact an optometrist as soon as possible. If you catch it early enough it is often better to have cataracts removed before they advance too far

How aging affects other eye structures:

As we age, muscles that control our pupil size and reaction to light lose some strength. This causes the pupil to become smaller and less responsive to changes in ambient lighting. Because of these changes, people in their 60s need three times more ambient light for comfortable reading than those in their 20s.

Another interesting thing that happens as we age is that our bodies produce fewer tears. This is particularly true for women after menopause. If you begin to experience a burning sensation, stinging, or other eye discomfort related to dry eyes, consult your eye doctor for other options such as prescription dry eye medications.

Aging also causes a normal loss of peripheral vision, with the size of our visual field decreasing by approximately one to three degrees per decade of life. By the time you reach your 70s and 80s, you may have a peripheral visual field loss of 20 to 30 degrees.

Cells in the retina that are responsible for normal color vision decline in sensitivity as we age, causing colors to become less bright and the contrast between different colors to be less noticeable. In particular, blue colors may appear faded or “washed out.” While there is no treatment for this normal, age-related loss of color perception, you should be aware of this loss if your profession (e.g. artist, seamstress or electrician) requires fine color discrimination.

As we age, 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 condition, called vitreous detachment, 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 not treated immediately. If you experience flashes and floaters, see your eye doctor immediately to determine the cause.

What You Can Do About Age-Related Vision Changes

A healthy diet and wise lifestyle choices, such as not smoking, are your best natural defenses against vision loss as you age. Catching potential problems early is essential to keeping your eye health and vision in tip top shape. Having regular eye exams with a caring and knowledgeable optometrist or ophthalmologist is also important.

About Eve Williams

Eve Williams
Eve Williams is the Production and Social Media Administrator for Eldernet. She has a passion for learning new things.

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