You may enjoy good eye health and excellent vision throughout your retirement years, without being affected by significant age-related vision loss. However, aging does present you with an increased risk of eye diseases and other conditions that can impact your vision. You may already have begun to notice, possibly as early as your 40s, that your vision has been gradually changing through the years. You may have increased the strength of your prescription eyeglasses or noticed that traffic lights are increasingly glaring. Here is some information about age-related eye changes to help you in your considerations of ways to protect your eyes from diminishing vision.
Common Age-related Eye Diseases and Conditions
Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) — AMD gradually reduces the sharpness of central vision, which is needed to see objects clearly and to perform some key routine tasks like driving or reading.
Cataract — Cataracts cloud the ocular lens, causing vision to be blurry. Glare may become intense, and colors may appear dull or faded.
Diabetic Eye Disease — Diabetic eye disease is a complication of diabetes and a leading cause of blindness. The most common form is diabetic retinopathy, which occurs when diabetes damages the tiny blood vessels inside the retina.
Glaucoma — Glaucoma is a group of diseases that can damage the eye’s optic nerve and result in vision loss and blindness. It is usually associated with high pressure in the eye, and it affects side or peripheral vision.
Dry Eye — Dry eye occurs when the eye does not produce tears properly, or when the tears are not of the correct consistency and evaporate too quickly. Dry eye can make it more difficult to perform some activities, such as using a computer or reading for an extended period of time.
Low Vision — With low vision, prescription eyeglasses, medication, or even surgery may not sufficiently remedy vision impairment that makes daily activities too difficult to do. Shopping, watching TV, cooking, reading mail, writing a note, and other actions can be very challenging for people with this condition.
Symptoms of Age-Related Eye Conditions
Awareness of the signs of age-related eye problems can help you take the appropriate actions to maintain good eyesight. Of course, some eye issues can occur suddenly. But, some are more common in older adults. The symptoms described below may indicate an eye condition that can cause severe loss of vision. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should see your eye doctor for a thorough examination with dilation, as soon as possible.
Blurry vision — Blurry traffic, fuzzy images of people and objects, halos around lights at night, and dulling of colors can be symptoms of cataracts. Cataracts may gradually worsen as your eye’s lens continues aging. Vision can continue deteriorating, without cataract surgery to replace your increasingly cloudy lens with an intraocular lens (IOL) made to custom fit your eye. Waiting too long for cataract surgery increases the risk of complications, such as glaucoma. And, if cataract surgery is postponed too long, the cloudy lens can become harder, making it more difficult to safely and thoroughly remove.
A major increase of spots and floaters — Eye floaters are caused by vitreous detachment, a benign, age-related inner eye condition. The eye’s gel-like interior becomes liquefied and separated from the retina. The sudden appearance of many spots and floaters may be caused by a tear in the retina, or by the detachment of it. This is a problem that can threaten your vision and should be examined urgently.
Double vision, double images — Double vision may be caused by any one of numerous eye conditions. It may also be a warning of a stroke or other serious health event. If you suddenly experience double vision, have an examination by your eye doctor or general practitioner immediately.
Darkened Vision — If you experience the sensation that you are looking for a dark film, this also could be due to retinal detachment. The detachment separation the retina from the choroid, its critical nourishing layer of blood vessels. This event requires emergency treatment to prevent permanent vision loss.
Narrow-angle glaucoma — Sudden eye pain and redness, with nausea and vomiting, may be symptoms of an attack of narrow-angle glaucoma, which can cause permanent damage to the optic nerve. Emergency treatment is necessary to prevent potentially permanent vision loss.
Dry, irritated eyes — Persistent eye irritation, and/or eye pain on the surface of the eyes, or eyes failing to produce normal amounts of tears are common symptoms of dry eye syndrome. These symptoms can become increasingly severe with aging, as the body produces fewer and fewer tears, or as the chemistry of an aging person’s tears changes. Remedies for dry eyes may include lubricating the eyes with a prescription or over-the-counter eye drops.
The gradual diminishment of central vision — Distorted vision, such as straight lines appearing wavy may be symptoms of macular degeneration (AMD), one of the leading causes of blindness in older US Americans. Modern medical treatments can sometimes stop or limit the extent of vision loss from AMD.
Blind spots — If you are a diabetic, and your vision is affected by eye floaters across your field of view and blurring of your vision, these vision issues can be caused by the onset of diabetic retinopathy.
Tunnel vision — Loss of peripheral vision is known as tunnel vision, the narrowing of the field of vision. Glaucoma can be the cause of this reduction in the ability to see objects that are to your side. Medical attention is required. Without treatment, peripheral vision loss can worsen, leading to narrower tunnel vision and possibly blindness.
Preventing Age-Related Eye Problems
Numerous eye diseases occur without warning or symptoms. Having a dilated exam of your eyes can reveal eye diseases while they are in the early stages. Early detection of eye diseases and prompt treatment can save your eyesight. Even if you have not experienced any changes in your vision, if you are over age 50, you should visit your eye doctor for a dilated eye exam. Your doctor will advise you on how often you should have routine exams, based on your personal risk factors for developing various eye diseases or other significant conditions.
Regular eye exams — The essential way to avoid some amount of vision loss as you continue aging is routine eye exams, at least annually. Staying out ahead of potential eye problems is a safer approach than trying to lessen the impact on your eyesight after a problem develops.
Healthy lifestyle — Maintaining healthy nutrition, abundant hydration, regular exercise, stress management, and a vitamin regimen that promotes eye health, all together can reduce your risk for severe eye problems during your retirement years.
For more information about age-related eye conditions and diseases, or to make an appointment for an eye examination, contact St. Lucy’s Vision Center to speak to one of our helpful professional medical office staff members.