When you age, both physical strength and your vision may decline. Once you are 60 or older, you may have a considerable decline in vision. The decline in your vision may have nothing to do with an eye disease or condition, but instead has everything to do with the natural effects of aging; For instance, presbyopia is a condition affecting people over the age of 40 where near vision begins to decline. Alternatively, you may be faced with diseases of the eye that are related to age, such as cataracts, which will require treatment.
Of course, it’s unfortunate, but there are even more serious eye conditions that can occur in the elderly, some of which can alter the quality of one’s life, including diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, and glaucoma.
Age-Related Vision Issues Onset
Presbyopia: Once many people reach the age of 40 it often becomes obvious a person has a decline in near vision. This loss of one’s ability to focus on objects is the definition of presbyopia. The lens in the eye begins to harden and this, in turn, causes focus difficulties. For a while you may be able to deny the decline in your vision as you squint and hold things at a distance to view them, but eventually the admission that you need corrective action will be necessary and unavoidable.
Presbyopia is a treatable condition and there are several treatment options, including glass, contacts, bifocals, multifocals, or surgical solutions like conductive keratoplasty or monovision LASIK surgery.
Cataracts: This eye condition is so common among those who are aging, the condition can almost be called a natural change in the eye due to aging. As per information supplied by the Mayo Clinic, a good 50% of all people who are over the age of 65 have developed cataracts in the eyes. Once you reach the age of 70, the chances of cataract development increase. Research suggests that by the year 2020, some 30 million people in the US will end up with cataract eye conditions.
Cataract surgical procedures are effective, safe and have a 100% rate of success, thereby allowing a person to have their vision completely restored. If you have cataracts, the condition needs to be treated as soon as possible to prevent advancement and ensure optimal vision restoration. In addition to cataract surgery, some patients decide to get implants of multifocal lenses. The lenses used for implants are intraocular lenses, which can improve one’s vision range and minimize the need for glasses when reading or distance viewing following cataract surgery.
Eye Diseases in the Aging
Diabetic retinopathy: As per information made available from the National Eye Institute, over 10 million people in the US who are 40 years of age or older have diabetes. Some researchers suggest some 30% of all people have diabetes and do not realize it yet. What’s more, of the diabetics who know they have the disease, nearly 40% of them have some degree of an eye condition known as diabetic retinopathy. Of those over 40 with diabetes, one out of 12 has retinopathy to the degree that it is advanced and a threat to the person’s vision. Getting diabetes under control is what will help in the prevention of the loss of eyesight.
Glaucoma: Around the age of 50 you have an increased risk of developing glaucoma. When you are in your 40s, the chances of getting glaucoma are around 1%, but as you age, this number continues to increase. By the time you reach 80 years of age, your likelihood of getting glaucoma is about 12 percent. By 2020, researchers suggest that as many a 3.6 million more cases of glaucoma will occur, which is a marked increase of as much as 50%. The condition can be treated with surgery, and corrective lenses and treatment is needed to prevent vision loss.
Macular degeneration: A condition also called AMD for short, which stands for age-related macular degeneration, this eye disorder is the biggest cause of elderly blindness in Americans. As per information offered by the National Eye Institute, the condition affects just under 2 million people in the US today. Since the population in America is aging, the numbers are set to increase through the year 2020 to as much as 3 million sufferers. With no cure, the hope one has is prompt medical care in order stabilize the disorder or to reduce the speed in which the disease progresses.
Eye Structures & Aging
With aging, there are changes in your vision and the structures of your eye. The changes occurring in the eye that are related to aging include:
Color Vision Decreases: The retina is a part of the eye located in the eye’s posterior. It is light sensitive and contains rods and cones responsible for interpreting colors, but this ability will decline with aging. The result is that colors are not as bright as they once were and the distinct contrasts between varying degrees of color may not be as noticeable. For instance, the color blue will take on a washed out, faded appearance. It’s important to keep the idea of color vision decreases in the back of your mind if you have an occupation dependent on your ability to see colors, like an electrician or seamstress. There is no cure for the loss of color vision.
Dry eyes: With aging, the eyes will not produce as many tears as it formerly did. This is the case for menopausal woman and postmenopausal women in particular. Some of the signs of dry eyes include discomfort, stinging, burning, and itchiness as well as redness. Relief may be found through the use of artificial tears, and if that fails, you might be able to get a prescribed option from your eye doctor.
Peripheral Vision Loss: For every decade you are alive, you will lose anywhere from one to three degrees. With this figure in mind, it serves to say that when you are into your 70s and 80s, your field of vision will have decreased significantly, upwards of 2o degrees.
Reduced pupil size: The muscles responsible for making the pupils dilate and contract will weaken over the course of time. Pupils are reactive to lighting, and will become less responsible to the changes in light due to muscular weakening. This also means by the age of 60 you’ll require up to three times the amount of ambient lighting you were used to when you were in your 20s, in order to see and read with comfort. The eyes may have difficulty processing very bright sunlight and glares too, and this is where antireflective coatings and photochromic lenses can prove quite helpful.
Vitreous detachment: The vitreous is a gel-like substance in the eye that liquefies as we age. It will pull away from the light-sensitive retina in the back of the eye. The end result is that you see floaters, flashes of light, and spots. Usually, this is not a big concern – vitreous detachment is typically harmless. However, flashes of light and floaters can also signify the detachment of the retina itself and, when this happens, blindness can be the end result if the issue is not immediately taken care of by an eye doctor. If you have seen floaters and flashes of light, contact your eye doctor as soon as possible so you can be evaluated.
Please note: The loss of your visual field through natural aging makes you at an increased risk for having car accidents, so caution should be taken if you are driving anywhere. When driving, make sure you turn your head in both directions to get a full view of intersections, doing so increases your field of vision.
Improving Age-Related Eye Conditions
Regular exercise, a nutritional diet, and common sense lifestyle choices as well a stress reduction, maintaining an ideal weight, and foregoing bad habits may help in minimizing the effects of age-related vision loss. Make sure you have exams on a regular basis with a qualified ophthalmologist or optometrist as well.
If you have concerns about your vision or eyes, bring them up in discussion with your vision specialist. If you have eye problems in your history or if you have members of your family with eye difficulties, make sure you make your doctor aware of this information. Finally, be sure to notify your doctor of any supplements, herbs, vitamins, over the counter medications, and prescribed medications you are currently taking.