As a person gets older certain bodily changes are to be expected. For example, muscle tone may diminish and bones can become more fragile as we age. Exercise and healthy eating may be able to stave off some of the effects of aging, but avoiding vision problems may require some additional effort.
Vision naturally diminishes as we age, but not all vision changes are related to aging. Many natural changes are not severe and may only require a minor adjustment in prescription glasses or contact lenses. Improved lighting or bigger print may help remedy other issues, including blurry text.
However, certain conditions that people blame on getting older really may be hereditary or a byproduct of an illness. There’s a difference between changes that are the result of aging and those that are not. Recognizing the differences can help individuals get the treatment necessary to prevent permanent eye damage.
Difficulty seeing clearly for reading and close work is one of the most common age-related vision issues. This condition can begin as early as age 40 and worsen as a person gets older. Variation in the eyes’ ability to focus properly is called presbyopia, and it will worsen over time.
Other normal signs of aging include problems with glare from headlights or the sun. Lens changes in the eye can cause light to be scattered rather than focused on the retina. This leads to more glare. In dim conditions, a person may find he or she needs more light to see well. That’s because muscles that control pupil size and reaction to light lose some strength.
Changes in color perception also may begin. The normally clear lens of the eye can discolor, making it difficult to distinguish between certain hues.
Conditions not directly tied to aging
Certain eye disorders may become more prevalent as a person gets older, but that does not mean they are a byproduct of aging. Macular degeneration, which causes spotty loss of detail or sudden and severe loss of central vision, may occur. This condition is a result of damage to the macula, the central part of the retina responsible for detail, color and daylight vision.
Risk factors for macular degeneration include high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, and untreated high blood pressure. Poor circulation to the retina is the most common cause of macular degeneration.
Glaucoma is another condition linked to aging. Glaucoma is caused by damage to the optic nerve by fluid pressure inside the eye. Patients with glaucoma typically do not exhibit early symptoms. Glaucoma is only detectable through routine vision examinations.
According to the Mayo Clinic, about half of all 65-year-old Americans have some degree of cataract formation in their eyes. People who have cataracts may think they’re an unavoidable part of getting older. While aging may increase the risk of getting cataracts, according to Lighthouse International its true cause is unknown. Other risks include long-term exposure to the sun’s rays, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, and eye injury.
Illnesses like diabetes can affect eyesight in many different ways. Proper treatment for diabetes and management of the condition can prevent a number of eye disorders.
Adults should not assume all vision changes are a direct result of getting older. Annual vision examinations by qualified eye doctors can pinpoint the cause of problems and find treatment options that are successful.