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HomeBlogHow age affects eyesight

How age affects eyesight

A lot of changes happen as you get older, including shifts in your vision. As you reach the 40-to-60-year range of life, changes in your vision will become more apparent. Many of these vision adjustments are natural and aren’t cause for alarm, but others may be an indication of something much more serious. Here are the four most common vision conditions to be aware of as you age:

Glaucoma

An eye with glaucoma will have a cloudy or foggy film over the lens. Aging can cause the circulation of eye (intraocular) fluid to slow, which increases pressure within your eye. Over time, this pressure can damage your optic nerve, cause blurry peripheral vision, and in serious cases, result in eye pain, headaches, nausea and vomiting.

How serious is it?

Glaucoma is relatively common for people in their 40s, but the effects, including complete vision loss, can be serious if left untreated. Because the disease often reveals no symptoms and goes undetected, by the time it’s noticeable, irreversible damage has been done to one’s vision — all the more reason for you to get regular eye exams.

Medication can keep some of glaucoma’s effects at bay, but eventually it can lead to blindness. If you know that your risk for the disease is on the high side — if you have a family history of glaucoma, severe myopia, you’re over 60, diabetic, African American, etc. — or your eye doctor detects some red flags during an exam, don’t hesitate to discuss a treatment plan. 

Cataracts

As with glaucoma, cataracts give a cloudy appearance to the eye. Generally, when you reach your 40s, the proteins in the lens of your eye begin to break down and group together to create a foggy film. This fog makes it difficult for the lens, which helps focus light on your retina, to provide you with a clear image. Colors may appear less vibrant, and blurry splotches can pop up in your field of vision.

How serious is it? 

Cataracts are one of the most common age-related vision changes. They’re also the most likely culprit for vision loss in people over 40 and the leading cause of blindness overall. 

Now for the good news: the effects of most cataracts can be successfully treated with prescription eyeglasses or contacts. However, if your vision seems to be getting worse, corrective surgery is a relatively simple and highly successful procedure. During cataract surgery, your eye’s lens will be replaced with an artificial intraocular lens (IOL) and your cloudy vision will vanish.

Presbyopia

As you get older, if you find yourself holding your dinner menu at arms length in order to read it, you could have presbyopia — literally “old sight” in Greek. The lens of your eye changes shape to effectively focus light on the retina and allow you to see near and far distances. Once you reach your 40s, the lens becomes stiff and can’t accommodate light as easily, which makes it hard for you to focus on things that are close up.

How serious is it?

Presbyopia, or age-related farsightedness, is a very common vision change for people from their 40s through their 60s. Plenty of resources are available to correct the condition, including reading glasses that you can pick up (without a prescription) at your local optical store or online. Corrective surgery is also an option, but it isn’t necessary in most cases.

Presbyopia can make it difficult to read small text

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)

If you notice holes or blind spots in your central vision, see a local eye doctor immediately: age-related macular degeneration may be to blame. 

There are two types of AMD: dry (the most common type) and wet. Both types affect the macula — the small, middle part of the retina — which allows you to see fine detail. In dry AMD, the macula tissues become thin and develop little clumps of protein called drusen. These proteins slowly deteriorate your central vision. Wet AMD happens when abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina and cause scarring around the macula. Vision loss occurs much faster in wet AMD, but this type only accounts for 20% of macular degeneration cases. 

How serious is it?

Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss among older Americans and should be viewed as a severe risk to your health. If left unmanaged, AMD can cause permanent damage to your central vision. In most cases, wet AMD can be treated with medications that are injected into the eye. Unfortunately, there is no treatment available for dry AMD, but certain nutritional supplements and exercises can slow the progression. 

There is no cure for AMD, and early prevention is your best defense.

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