Aging is inevitable, and it can bring about a lot of change: changes in hair color, skin texture, bone density, weight, muscle tone – and yes, vision changes too.
Some people are lucky to live their younger years with perfect 20/20 vision, while others have had poor eyesight since they were kids. Either way, everyone’s vision will keep changing over time.
So, why does eyesight get worse as you age? And can you prevent any of these adult vision changes?
How Your Vision Changes With Age
Between the ages of 19 and 40, your eyes are in their “prime” and, overall, your vision should be at its peak. Most issues in this age group come down to eye strain or eye injuries. But after the age of 40, it’s more common to notice changes in your vision. This is especially true as you edge closer to age 60.1
What Vision Issues Might You Encounter?
- You may need more light for reading or working.
- You may struggle to focus well on near objects, or fine print. This is known as presbyopia, and it is due to the hardening of the lens inside your eye. Presbyopia often comes with aging, and it can be corrected with reading glasses.
- You might experience an increase in “floaters,” those tiny specks that appear to float across your vision, no matter where you look. Floaters are generally normal but should still be checked by a professional.
- You may be more susceptible to dry eyes, as your tear glands begin to produce fewer tears. This is especially true for women.2
As you age, you’re also more susceptible to age-related eye ailments that can lead to vision loss. So, it’s absolutely critical that you have annual eye exams in order to keep an “eye” out for these conditions.
Conditions That Cause Age-Related Vision Loss
Cataracts are common in the aging population. In fact, by age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract, or have had cataract surgery. Cataracts are opaque areas across the lens of the eye that can cause blurry vision, faded colors, and bad glare. Magnifying contact lenses or eyeglasses may help in the early stages, but once vision loss affects your everyday life, surgery is recommended. Cataract surgery is very common, and involves replacing the cloudy lens with a new, clear, artificial lens.3
Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss. It affects more than 10 million Americans, and it is incurable. It occurs when the central part of the retina (known as the macula) deteriorates. Unfortunately, this part of the eye is how you are able to focus, read, identify people you know, and understand objects in front of you.
Age-related macular degeneration vision changes may progress slowly, and though you may be diagnosed with it early, it may take some time to advance to where you will have vision problems. At its most advanced stage, someone with AMD is considered legally blind.
With no cure, what can you do to lessen your risk, or even slow the progression of AMD? Practice good eye health! There’s a cheat sheet below.4
With glaucoma, fluid build-up causes increasing pressure in the eye. This, in turn, can cause severe damage to the optic nerve of your eye. At its worst, glaucoma can cause vision loss, and it is the second-leading cause of blindness in the U.S. The risk factors for glaucoma include family history, ethnicity (there appears to be a higher risk for African Americans and Latinos), chronic eye inflammation issues, and medications that increase pressure in the eye. Often, glaucoma has no symptoms.
The good news is that if glaucoma is diagnosed early, it can usually be controlled, and vision loss prevented. This is why regular eye exams are so critical.5
Embrace Your Eye Health NOW
Vision changes aren’t easy for everyone to cope with, which is why your eye health is so important! No matter your age, now is a great time to start practicing good eye health. What is good eye health? Taking the best care possible of your eyes!
Some ways you can do this are:
- Get regular exercise to increase oxygen in the eyes, which also helps to clear out toxins.
- Protect your eyes from the sun. UV rays can damage your eyes over the long term. Always choose sunglasses that have both UVA and UVB protective lenses.
- Don’t smoke. Toxic smoke can increase your risk of both age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts.
- Eat a balanced diet. A diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants is essential for eye health. Eat plenty of leafy green veggies and fish.
- Reduce contact with “blue light” from LED screens (laptops, phones, computers, and TVs). Research has shown that blue light exposure may cause slow damage to the retina. You can now purchase special apps or glasses to “warm” this light and help to protect your eyes.
- Get regular eye exams. Regularly having a professional exam decreases your risk of serious conditions escalating. Many eye concerns do not have clear symptoms.
- Protect your eyes when working with tools. You should always use eye protection when using tools of any kind (no matter your proficiency with them). Almost 60 percent of all eye injuries occur around the home, where even simple tasks, like gardening, can cause eye injuries. Invest in some safety goggles.
- Protect your eyes from eye strain. Yes, long hours spent at computers can be unavoidable. To avoid eye strain, make sure that you have good lighting around you, that your screen isn’t too bright, and that you always take regular breaks. Rest breaks should consist of a few minutes every hour where you look away from the computer and refocus. Also, try to blink often when using a computer to avoid dry eyes.6
Adult Vision: In Summary
It’s so easy to take your eyes for granted. But they’re always working away, capturing every single thing you look at, day in and day out, and sending images to your brain for processing. Unfortunately, you only get one pair of eyes in a lifetime, and that pair has to last.
Though age-related vision changes may be inevitable (as all aging is), good eye health can go a long way in the fight against vision loss.
So make sure you’re taking great care of your phenomenal lil’ peepers today. You’ll be glad you did in the long run!
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