• Keep aging eyes healthy.

Keeping Aging Eyes Healthy

Our eyesight is one of the first senses to be affected by aging. Just as our physical strength tends to decrease as we age, the same is true for our eyes.

So, what can you do to pro­tect your eye­sight and eye health as you get old­er, to more ful­ly enjoy those gold­en years?

This edu­ca­tion­al guide will dis­cuss the eye health prob­lems you might encounter as your eyes age in your adult years. It will also help you under­stand how your vision changes as you age and, more impor­tant­ly, ways to keep your eyes healthy for a life­time of good vision.

Your risk of cataracts, glaucoma and other eye problems increases after age 40 — especially if you have health problems such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

Ear­ly signs of these age-relat­ed dis­eases often begin in this mid-life age range, even though the con­di­tions may not affect your vision until lat­er. It’s impor­tant, then, to get plen­ty of exer­cise, stop smok­ing and have your eyes exam­ined reg­u­lar­ly to mon­i­tor their health.

You should also pay close atten­tion to your diet. Stud­ies have shown dietary choic­es may pro­tect the lens of the eye and reduce the risk of some con­di­tions that may affect your sight lat­er on. So it’s impor­tant to eat foods rich in omega-3 fat­ty acids and antiox­i­dants.

When you reach your 40s you’ll also begin to expe­ri­ence a nor­mal age-relat­ed eye change called pres­by­opia. This is when your arms “aren’t long enough” to read the news­pa­per with­out read­ing glass­es or bifo­cals. Sev­er­al vision cor­rec­tion options are avail­able, includ­ing eye­glass­es and con­tact lens­es, as well as refrac­tive sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dures that can restore your vision at all dis­tances and elim­i­nate the need for eye­glass­es or con­tacts.

After age 40, you also may notice that your eyes are feel­ing dry more fre­quent­ly. This is par­tic­u­lar­ly true for women after menopause. Reduced tear pro­duc­tion is a com­mon aging change, and new tech­nolo­gies are avail­able to help you man­age dry eye symp­toms.

Make sure to sched­ule rou­tine eye exams at least once a year so you’re on top of any changes in your eye health.

Many of the same eye conditions previously encountered in your 40s will continue into your 50s. Therefore your risk for cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma begins to increase.

For instance, you may encounter a loss of periph­er­al vision, which is an ear­ly sign of glau­co­ma. Prob­lems like glau­co­ma often have no obvi­ous symp­toms until vision is per­ma­nent­ly lost, but can be detect­ed ear­ly with reg­u­lar eye exams before vision loss occurs.

Woman receiv­ing an eye exam. Cap­tion says: Reg­u­lar eye exams become more impor­tant as you reach your 50s.
To reduce your risk of cataracts, main­tain a healthy lifestyle and eat plen­ty of fresh fruits and veg­eta­bles that con­tain vit­a­mins and antiox­i­dants that nour­ish the eye, such as vit­a­mins A and C. Salmon and oth­er cold-water fish are excel­lent sources of essen­tial omega-3 fat­ty acids that are impor­tant to the health of the mac­u­la, the part of the eye respon­si­ble for cen­tral vision.

Reg­u­lar eye exams become more impor­tant as you reach your 50s. Not only do you need to keep pace with the changes in your vision by updat­ing your pre­scrip­tion for glass­es or con­tact lens­es, but you also want to be cer­tain that no vision prob­lems are begin­ning to devel­op. Cer­tain med­ica­tions may affect your vision and eye health, so it’s impor­tant to tell your doc­tor about all of your med­ica­tions.

People over age 60 should have yearly dilated eye exams. During this exam, your eye doctor will put drops in your eyes that will widen (dilate) your pupils so that he or she can look at the back of each eye.

This is the only way to find some com­mon eye dis­eases that have no ear­ly signs or symp­toms. If you wear glass­es, your pre­scrip­tion should be checked, too. See your eye doc­tor reg­u­lar­ly to check for dis­eases like dia­betes and high blood pres­sure, as these dis­eases can cause eye prob­lems if not con­trolled or treat­ed.

Lights from oncom­ing traf­fic, as seen from an auto­mo­bile at night. Cap­tion says: Halos and glare around lights when dri­ving at night are signs of cataracts.
Cataracts are the most com­mon eye con­di­tion, and the symp­toms are easy to rec­og­nize. Ear­ly signs include halos and glare around lights when dri­ving at night, and col­ors may not appear as bright. The yel­low­ing of the eye lens due to cataracts affects col­or per­cep­tion and con­trast sen­si­tiv­i­ty. The only avail­able treat­ment is cataract surgery, where your nat­ur­al lens in the eye is replaced with an intraoc­u­lar lens (IOL). The lat­est tech­nol­o­gy includes pres­by­opia-cor­rect­ing IOLs that help you see at all dis­tances, as well as toric IOLs that cor­rect astig­ma­tism.

Be alert to warn­ing signs of more seri­ous, age-relat­ed vision prob­lems that could cause blind­ness, such as floaters and spots or flash­es of light. They might indi­cate prob­lems such as reti­nal detach­ment, which is a med­ical emer­gency. As we age, the gel-like vit­re­ous inside the eye begins to liq­ue­fy and pull away from the reti­na, caus­ing spots, floaters and flash­es of light. This con­di­tion, called vit­re­ous detach­ment, is usu­al­ly harm­less. But floaters and flash­es of light can also sig­nal the begin­ning of a detached reti­na — a seri­ous prob­lem that can cause blind­ness if not treat­ed imme­di­ate­ly.

You may also find your abil­i­ty to see in low-light­ing envi­ron­ments decreas­es. As we age, our pupils become small­er and less respon­sive to changes in ambi­ent light­ing. Because of these changes, peo­ple in their 60s need up to three times more ambi­ent light for com­fort­able read­ing than those in their 20s.

It’s still impor­tant to main­tain a healthy lifestyle, includ­ing mak­ing sure you are get­ting the nutri­ents your eyes need for good health. Sched­ule annu­al eye exams with your optometrist or oph­thal­mol­o­gist, and let your eye doc­tor know about any changes in your over­all health as well.

In your later years, remember that many eye problems are painless, and you may see no change in your vision until the disease has become quite advanced. While normally we think of aging as it relates to conditions such as presbyopia and cataracts, more subtle changes in our vision and eye structures also take place as we grow older.

Aging caus­es a nor­mal loss of periph­er­al vision, with the size of our visu­al field decreas­ing by approx­i­mate­ly one to three degrees per decade of life. By the time you reach your 70s and 80s, you may have a periph­er­al visu­al field loss of 20 to 30 degrees. Reduced pupil size can affect your periph­er­al vision and dri­ving safe­ty in your senior years.

Low vision is also some­thing to be aware of dur­ing these years. Low vision describes sig­nif­i­cant visu­al impair­ment that can’t be cor­rect­ed ful­ly with glass­es, con­tact lens­es, med­ica­tion or eye surgery. Low vision affects some peo­ple as they age. You may have low vision if you:

  • Can’t see well enough to do every­day tasks like read­ing, cook­ing, or sewing
  • Have dif­fi­cul­ty rec­og­niz­ing the faces of your friends or fam­i­ly
  • Have trou­ble read­ing street signs
  • Find that lights don’t seem as bright

If you’re expe­ri­enc­ing any of these prob­lems, ask your eye care pro­fes­sion­al to test you for low vision. Spe­cial tools can help peo­ple with low vision to read, write and man­age dai­ly tasks.

You also may notice a loss of some of your col­or vision. Cells in the reti­na that are respon­si­ble for nor­mal col­or per­cep­tion decline in sen­si­tiv­i­ty as we age, caus­ing col­ors to become less bright and the con­trast between dif­fer­ent col­ors to be less notice­able. In par­tic­u­lar, blue col­ors may appear fad­ed or washed out. If this is a prob­lem, ask your eye doc­tor about spe­cial lens­es that can increase con­trast.

You can reduce your chances of devel­op­ing seri­ous eye prob­lems by main­tain­ing a healthy lifestyle along with reg­u­lar eye exams. Be sure to dis­cuss with your eye doc­tor any con­cerns you’re expe­ri­enc­ing with your eyes or vision, and don’t for­get to men­tion any his­to­ry of eye dis­eases or prob­lems in your fam­i­ly.

Fol­low­ing these steps will help you enjoy your pre­cious gift of sight to the fullest.


March 30th, 2017|Comments Off on Keeping Aging Eyes Healthy

About the Author:

Born in Connecticut and raised in Upstate New York , Dr. Stetson graduated Cum Laude from Colgate University in New York, and then earned an MD degree with honors at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. He distinguished himself again in residency at the Albany Medical Center, where he obtained the highest percentile in the Ophthalmology Knowledge Assessment Examinations. Dr. Stetson has performed more than 50,000 refractive surgeries and has been on staff at Diamond Vision since 2004, before becoming Medical Director in 2006.


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