How Your Eyes Age
No matter how attentive you are with the care of your body, signs of aging are inevitable. Hair begins to turn to gray, joints ache, and dropping a few extra pounds becomes much more challenging. Aging also affects your eyes, causing vision changes and an increased risk of several eye diseases. As you get older, a few of these things may happen.
You Develop Presbyopia
Presbyopia makes reading difficult for people who are 40 and older. The problem occurs when the lens in your eye becomes less flexible. The clear lens, located inside your eye behind the iris and pupil, must constantly change shape as you focus on near, far, and mid-range objects.
As the lens flexibility decreases, you may have to hold papers or your smartphone at arm's length to see words clearly. If you currently wear eyeglasses, you might find that it's easier to read small print if you take off your glasses.
Reading glasses, bifocals, trifocals or progressive eyeglass lenses, or multifocal contact lenses make reading much more comfortable. Laser refractive surgery offers another option to improve your vision if you have presbyopia.
Colors Become Less Vivid
Cones, the cells in your retina responsible for color and central vision, lose sensitivity as you age. Colors may appear duller, or you may have difficulty distinguishing between shades, particularly in the blue and purple color groups.
Your Eyes Are Dryer
Dry eye is more common in older adults, due to a natural decline in tear production or poor tear quality. According to the American Optometric Association, most people over age 65 experience dry eyes.
Artificial tears can help keep your eyes moist. If you have severe dry eye, your ophthalmologist may recommend blocking tear ducts with tiny plugs to improve your tear film or might prescribe drops that increase tear production.
Cataracts May Cause Your Vision to Cloud
Do things look a little blurry and faded lately? You may have cataracts. The condition occurs when the lenses of your eyes become cloudy. If you have cataracts, you may notice halos around lights or increased glare, particularly at night. Half of all Americans have cataracts by age 75, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Replacing your clouded lens with an artificial lens during cataract surgery will improve your vision.
Peripheral Vision Decreases
Your peripheral (or side) vision may gradually shrink over the course of your life. In fact, you may experience a 20- to 30-degree loss of side vision as you reach your 70s and 80s, reports All About Vision.
Floaters and Flashers Increase
Floaters drift across your field of vision and look like shadowy specks or cobwebs. They form when the gel-like vitreous that gives your eye its shape begins to shrink with age. As the vitreous shrinks, small fibers detach, forming floaters. Floaters can sometimes be accompanied by flashes of light. Although floaters or flashers aren't harmful, seeing a large number of them can be a sign of retinal detachment.
You Need More Light for Reading or Close Work
Aging weakens the muscles that control your pupil size. Your pupils constantly change size to control the amount of light that enters your eyes. When the muscles weaken, your pupils become smaller and less responsive to light, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The NIH notes that people in their 20s need three times less light for reading than those in their 60s.
Your Risk of Certain Eye Diseases and Conditions Rises
As you grow older, you're more likely to develop:
- Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). AMD causes loss of central vision and also affects your ability to see colors.
- Diabetic Retinopathy. If you've had diabetes for years, you may be at increased risk of diabetic retinopathy. The condition causes blood vessels in your retina to leak, clouding your vision.
- Glaucoma. Glaucoma occurs when the pressure inside your eye becomes dangerously high. It can damage your optic nerve, causing partial or complete loss of vision.
- Retinal Detachment. Retinal detachments can also threaten your vision. The condition happens when part of the retina begins to tear or peel away from the back of the eye. If your retina isn't successfully reattached, you may experience permanent vision loss.
Has your vision changed as you've gotten older? Regular eye exams can help you protect your eyesight. Contact our office to schedule your appointment.
American Optometric Association: Dry Eye
American Academy of Ophthalmology: Eye Statistics
National Institutes of Health: Your Aging Eyes, 1/11
American Optometric Association: Adult Vision: 41 to 60 Years of Age
American Optometric Association: Adult Vision: Over 60 Years of Age