Aging Eyes: 8 Common Vision Problems Associated with Aging
Medically reviewed on May 25, 2017 by C. Fookes, BPharm.
Having to Read Small-Print at Arms Length: Presbyopia
Somewhere between your forties and fifties your eyes start to lose their ability to focus on near objects. Annoyingly, this often means holding small-print menus or newspapers at arms length to try and make any sense out of them. This is called presbyopia and is caused by a gradual loss of flexibility in the lens of the eye.
The bad news is that presbyopia worsens as you age. The good news is that it is easily corrected with reading glasses sold through most drugstores or department stores.
Random Specks or Cobwebs in Your Vision
Do you see dark shadowy shapes, blobs, or squiggly lines floating in your vision when you gaze at the sky or a white wall? Do these random shapes quickly move when you try and look at them?
These are called floaters, and they are caused by the gel-like substance in your eye (called the vitreous) shrinking in size. For most people they are a normal part of aging. However, in some people they can indicate something more serious, especially if many appear suddenly accompanied by flashes of light. If this happens to you, treat it as a medical emergency and see your eye professional straight away.
Cloudy-Looking Eyes: Cataracts
Cataracts form in the lens of our eyes. The lens is responsible for projecting an image onto the back of our retina and for adjusting how we focus. It is made up of proteins and water, but as we age the protein part can clump together and start to cloud a small area of the lens - known as a cataract. With time, this cataract may enlarge and cloud more of the lens, making it harder to see.
Odd-Looking Growths on the Whites of Your Eyes: Pterygiums
Pterygiums are white or yellow-colored raised growths on the surface of your eye. They may be barely noticeable unless they are large or have spread to cover the colored part of your eye. They are not cancerous and only need treatment if they start to obstruct your vision.
Although it is not known exactly what causes them, they are more likely to occur in people who get a lot of sun and wind exposure, such as surfers or landscape gardeners.
No matter what age you are, always protect your eyes with UV standards-approved sunglasses.
Fuzzy Periphery: Glaucoma
Glaucoma is actually a group of eye diseases associated with high eye pressure which results in damage to the optic nerve. You may have no symptoms to start with, but gradually your side vision may start to fail. Left untreated, glaucoma can cause serious vision loss, and ultimately blindness.
The key to saving your sight is early detection. The ONLY way early glaucoma can be detected is with an eye exam. Keep your sight and schedule an eye examination every one to two years if over 60 (or over 40 if you are of African-American descent or if a family member has the disease).
Dry, Gritty, or Streaming Eyes: Dry eye
Dry eye is common and not solely a condition of aging. Tears are made up of oil, water, and mucous; all of which need to be in perfect balance to effectively bathe our eyes between blinks. Dry eye can occur with hormone imbalances, contact lens wear, immune system disorders, certain medications, and infrequent blinking. Dry eye is more common in people over 50, especially women.
Your eyes may feel dry, gritty or sore. Oddly enough, they may also stream with tears but still feel dry. Why? Because the tears being formed are not of good enough quality to properly lubricate the eye.
Blurry Straight-On Vision: Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
The macula is part of our retina, and is located at the back of our eye. It contains millions of light-sensing cells that provide sharp, central vision. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a breakdown of this macula. Risk of AMD is higher in people over the age of 60, who smoke, are Caucasian, or have another family member with AMD. Only an eye exam can pick up early stages of AMD; most people have no symptoms. Moderately advanced AMD may cause central vision blurring or loss of sharpness. Do not wait to experience changes in your vision before being checked for AMD if you have any risk factors listed above.
Multiple Eye Problems: Diabetic Eye Disease
High blood sugar is damaging to nerves and blood vessels in our bodies. The trouble is, symptoms only occur after major damage has been done, which is why you need to keep good control of your blood sugar levels if you have diabetes.
If you have diabetes, talk with your doctor about keeping your blood sugars under good control, and visit your eye doctor at least once a year.
Finished: Aging Eyes - 8 Common Vision Problems Associated with Aging
- Presbyopia. National Eye Institute. https://nei.nih.gov/health/presbyopia
- Facts about floaters. National Eye Institute. https://nei.nih.gov/health/floaters/floaters
- Cataract. National Eye Institute. https://nei.nih.gov/health/cataract/
- Pterygium. Medline Plus. Updated 9 May 2017. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001011.htm
- Glaucoma. National Eye Institute. https://nei.nih.gov/health/glaucoma/
- Dry Eye. National Eye Institute. https://nei.nih.gov/health/dryeye
- Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). National Eye Institute. https://nei.nih.gov/health/maculardegen/
- Facts About Diabetic Eye Disease. National Eye Institute. Reviewed Sept 2015. https://nei.nih.gov/health/diabetic/retinopathy