Getting older can impact your eyesight. Typically, aging results in weaker vision, but there’s also a risk of greater age-related eye conditions. This is especially true if you have an underlying health condition that can affect eyesight, such as diabetes. The following are common age-related vision problems and diseases.
What Are Common Vision Problems?
It’s common for older adults to develop some vision problems such as floaters, dry eyes, and difficulty reading small print, but there are also eye diseases that become more common as you age.
Dry eyes, or keratoconjunctivitis sicca, can occur if the tear ducts in the eyes don’t produce enough tears. If you have dry eyes, your eyes may itch or burn. There may also be some vision loss. Fortunately, dry eyes can be treated in many cases with eye drops or a humidifier.
Loss of Close Vision
As you get older, you may notice that you have to hold things farther away from you in order to clearly see or read them. This, called presbyopia, is normal and often occurs gradually throughout your life but isn’t usually noticeable until after the age of 35 or 40. Reading glasses or multifocal lenses can improve your ability to see and read at a closer distance.
Another common vision problem that comes with aging is watery eyes, also known as epiphora. The tear ducts can produce too many tears, often due to sensitivity to things like temperature changes, wind, or light. Wearing sunglasses to shield the eyes can help. It’s possible that watery eyes are a symptom of a more serious condition, such as a blocked tear duct or an infection. These conditions are treatable by your eye doctor.
With aging, it’s common to see floaters, which are small spots that you can see floating across your vision field. It’s most common to see them when the lighting is bright, whether it’s indoors or outdoors. If the floaters are also accompanied by flashes of light, then floaters may be a symptom of retinal detachment or another eye condition that you should see your eye doctor about.
What Are Common Eye Diseases?
On top of the common vision problems that are associated with aging, getting older also increases your risk of developing certain eye diseases and conditions such as cataracts and glaucoma.
Cataracts are patches of cloudiness that develop over the eye’s lens. Just like a camera lens, the eye’s lens is usually clear in order to allow light to come in. Cataracts prevent light from properly entering the eye and making its way to the retina, resulting in blurry vision. Not all cataracts are large enough to need surgery. But, if cataract surgery is necessary, fortunately, cataract surgery is one of the most commonly performed surgeries worldwide and is considered extremely safe.
Glaucoma is an eye condition caused by an increase in pressure in the eye. If glaucoma isn’t treated promptly, it can eventually lead to loss of vision or even complete blindness. There are several different types of glaucoma and some of them present no symptoms. In some cases, it’s possible to experience the eye damage of glaucoma without the increase in eye pressure. Glaucoma is typically treated with eye drops, laser treatment, surgery, and orally taken medications.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
AMD, or age-related macular degeneration, is the loss of cells within the macula of the eye, which is where the eye’s millions of light-sensitive nerve cells are located. Loss of these cells results in blurred vision or loss of vision but doesn’t usually cause complete blindness. AMD can be treated in its earlier stages with nutritional supplements. An eye doctor may also prescribe medications or laser treatment. In its later stages, there is no cure for AMD.
Conjunctivitis is the inflammation of the tissue that covers the sclera, which is the layer of white that coats the exterior of the eyeball, as well as the inner lining of the eyelids. It can result in the eye appearing red or pink as well as cause itchiness, tearing, a burning sensation, or a feeling that there is something in the eye.
Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the retina in the eye isn’t properly fed by the small blood cells in the eye. The disease can occur in those who have diabetes and can sometimes have no symptoms in its early stages. In some people, the blood vessels can leak fluid, which can result in blurriness. Floaters, as well as cloudiness in the vision and even blind spots, can be symptoms of diabetic retinopathy. Injections and laser treatment may be able to prevent the loss of vision.
When the layers of the retina become separated from each other, it’s called retinal detachment. Floaters, especially when accompanied by flashes of light, can be a symptom of retinal detachment. Other symptoms may be dark shadows or waviness of the vision. Surgery or laser treatment can reattach the layers of the retina and restore vision.