Aging and Your Eyes
How Getting Older Affects Your Vision
Your eyesight is often one of the first senses affected by aging. Since we depend so much on our vision for daily function vision loss can be a disheartening experience. However, there are things you can do to minimize damage to your eyes as you age, and there are important signs to watch for that indicate it is time to see your optometrist.
Eye Care Basics
There are simple things you can do to keep your eyes healthy. A healthy diet is important in preventing a host of age related eye diseases and problems. For a list of healthy foods to eat that specifically target your eyes you can see our blog post on nutrition and your eye health. https:// davisod.com/nutrition-vision/. Exercise has also been shown to affect your eye health in a positive way. Seeing your optometrist can also help prevent damage to your eyes. Some eye problems and diseases have no symptoms until it’s too late and the damage is permanent, but your optometrist has tools to detect these issues and diseases early and can help you with treatments that will slow or prevent any further damage.
Eye Problems Associated with Aging
There are several eye problems associated with aging, although some of them can occur at any age. Here is a list of the most common problems.
• PRESBYOPIA. Presbyopia is the normal process of losing the ability to clearly see small print or close objects. It is a slow process, and most people don’t notice any significant change until somewhere around age 40. It is often corrected with contacts or reading glasses.
• DRY EYES. Dry eyes can be common at any age, but as you age dry eyes may become worse or happen more often. Dry eye occurs when your tear glands can’t produce enough tears or produce poor quality tears. Dry eye is usually mild and only causes itching and redness and can be treated with eye drops or changes in environment (like a humidifier in your home.) In some cases dry eye can be more severe and can cause burning or some loss of vision. In these cases tear duct plugs, prescription eye drops, or surgery may be recommended. For more information about dry eye see our blog post https://davisod.com/dry-eye-syndrome/.
• FLOATERS. Seeing spots or ‘floaters’ as they are called, is a common and benign eye issue that occurs as we get older. There is generally no course of treatment for floaters unless they interfere with vision, which rarely occurs. If you see a shower of floaters or flashes of light this can indicate a retinal tear and you should call your optometrist or a medical professional immediately. For more information on floaters see our blog post https://davisod.com/seeingspots/.
• TEARING (or watery eyes). You may begin to experience frequent tears as you get older. As you get older you may become more sensitive to temperature changes, wind, or light and this can cause an excess of tears. You can wear sunglasses, regular glasses (either prescription or non-prescription), or shield your eyes to prevent them from tearing. It is important to see your optometrist if tearing becomes excessive as it can indicate a more serious problem like a blocked tear duct.
• CATARACTS. Cataracts are cloudy areas that cover part of the lens inside your eye. Sometimes they can cover the entire lens. Cataracts can prevent light from passing through your eye’s lens, which in turn impairs vision. Cataracts generally form slowly, and aren’t painful. Some do not affect eye sight and do not need to be removed. If necessary, cataracts can be removed by surgery. Contact your optometrist if you feel cataracts may be affecting your vision.
• GLAUCOMA. Glaucoma is pressure inside the eye that is caused by a build up of fluid. It has a variety of causes and is almost always associated with aging although an injury to the eye or eye infections can also be the culprit. Glaucoma causes irreversible damage to the eye and is a leading cause of vision loss. It often goes unnoticed since there are no symptoms until the final stages – when the damage has already been done. It is important to see your optometrist for regular check ups after age 40 since your optometrist has tools that can detect glaucoma early and they can help treat the glaucoma to slow or prevent further damage.
• MACULAR DEGENERATION. Age-related macular degeneration, often called AMD or ARMD, is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness among Americans who are 65 and older. AMD is degeneration of the macula, which is the part of the retina responsible for your sharp vision, the vision that is needed to do activities like read and drive. Smoking, high blood pressure, and obesity all greatly increase your risk of getting macular degeneration. Studies have shown that exercise and a healthy diet, including eating Omega-3 fatty acids, can help reduce the risk of this disease. The most common symptom is experiencing ‘blind spots’ in your central line of vision. Vision loss is often gradual, which is why it can be important to see your optometrist regularly. Your eye doctor can detect early signs of macular degeneration before symptoms occur. If you are experiencing ‘blind spots’ in your central line of vision, or have any loss of vision, please contact your optometrist immediately.
For more information on your eye health or to schedule a comprehensive eye exam, call Redding’s family-focused optometrist, Kristi Davis, O.D. At 530.222.7271.