Aging affects your eyesight just as it does the rest of your body. If you’ve been lucky enough to escape the use of contact lenses or eye glasses, it’s rare to get past the age of 40 without vision changes. People who have never worn glasses may find that not only do they need glasses but require bifocals.
You may suddenly encounter problems with night vision and need glasses to drive at night. Nowadays, the use of computers makes it very rare indeed to go without prescription lenses since the muscles that control our long distance vision don’t get much of a workout when you sit in front of a PC all day. As you age, you will definitely notice changes in your vision.
Gray hair, sagging skin, and low vision seem inevitable, but the best defense again eye problems is regular eye exams. Experts recommend having your eyes examined every two to four years by an optometrist or ophthalmologist between 40 and 64 years of age. From age 65 every one to two years by an ophthalmologist. Be sure to mention any diseases you have, drug allergies, eye injuries, infections, or operations. These, along with your family history, are important assessment tools since some eye diseases are associated with heredity.
Here are just some of the vision issues that aging individuals may have to deal with as the years go on. Many can be managed through surgery or medication.
1. Dry Eye Syndrome is a very common complaint. The eyes produce tears that clean away dust, dirt, and keep the eyeball lubricated. As we age, tear ducts may produce fewer tears. Another reason for the high incidence of dry eye complaints is the increase in long wearing contact lenses and spending many hours in front of the PC without blinking. Dry eyes can be corrected with artificial tear drops, or in more severe cases, an exploration of the tear ducts to see if there is a physiological reason why they are not working.
If you have dry eyes, stay avoid caffeine as it can dehydrate your eyes. Avoid dust, pollen, and other pollutants. On windy days, wear wraparound sun glasses. Use an artificial lubricant recommended by your doctor. Some over-the-counter eyedrops are vasoconstrictors that may make the problem worse. Also, consider using a humidifier at home.
2. According to the National Eye Institute, about half of Americans over 65 have cataracts. An eye with a cataract has a foggy lens and the opacity prevents light from reaching the retina. Cataracts that form on our lenses result in poor vision that can only be corrected with surgery. The cloudy lens is removed and a new artificial lens is put in its place.
If it believed that your chances of cataracts are increased if you smoke, have diabetes, or use corticosteroids. Some studies link cataracts to alcohol consumption. Also, long-term exposure to high level ultraviolet rays from the sun is another hazard.
3. With a detached retina the retina will peel off the back wall of the eye — like wallpaper. The retina is a thin sheet of light sensitive nerve tissue lining the inside of the eye. It sends impulses to the brain and receives information that results in the objects that we see. Although it can happen any time, it’s most likely if you’ve had cataract removed, eye injury, nearsightedness, or a family history of retinal detachment.
This is a serious condition that can lead to loss of vision. In many cases, retinal detachment can be treated with surgery if it’s caught before too much damage has occurred. If you suddenly experience blurred vision, floaters, flashing lights, or loss of vision like a curtain being draw in front of the eye, it’s important to see a doctor immediately.
4. Once you reach the age of 60 or so, it’s common to see flecks or cobwebs drifting across your line of vision. These floaters are clusters of cells that have separated from vitreous humor or gel in your eye. Flashes are another common age-related eye problem. The technical term is photopsia. These flashes appear when vitreous gel movement tugs at the retina. They’re generally harmless and don’t need treatment.
5. Over four million Americans and 50 million people suffer with some form of glaucoma. This condition can affect older people. Glaucoma can cause blindness through damage to the eye due to high fluid pressures in the eye. Medication and other conditions can raise the pressure. Glaucoma surgery relieves the pressure in the eye and attempts to prevent the fluid from building up again.
Good vision depends on a healthy optic nerve. Generally, you are at increased risk for glaucoma if you are older than age 40, are of African-American descent, have a family history of the disease, have elevated internal eye pressure, or have a previous serious eye injury.
Your eyes are a reflection of your overall health. An eye exam can detect diabetes, AIDS, or high blood pressure. Our eyes can age well or age poorly. If you have any of the above conditions, consult an eye doctor right away for viable solutions.