As we grow older, all of us experience a lot of changes in our body. Most of us also release that we don’t see as well as well could and wonder what it is that happens to vision as we age. This article aims to explain the changes that start in your 40s and continue over time.
Changes in near vision:
The most important change that happens to vision as we age is the problem with near vision. Most of us experience difficulty in seeing clearly at close distances, especially when reading and working on the computer. This usually develops in the early 40s and continues to progress, this change is called presbyopia. Presbyopia is the result of decrease in flexibility of the lens in your eye, making it more difficult for our eyes to focus on near objects as we age.
Changes in distance vision:
Changes in the transparency of the natural lens of the eye is also an inevitable part of ageing, and leads to change in the prescription of your glasses for distance. This change is the precursor for cataract. Eventually, this opacification of the lens, called cataract, leads to decrease in vision which can only be corrected by surgery. Cataract also leads to glare and makes it harder for you to distinguish between certain colors and shades, all of which appear washed out, a phenomenon described as loss of color saturation. This is one of the most common changes that happen to vision as we age, and usually starts in the 60s.
Changes in tear production and dry eyes:
Another common change that happens when we age, which affects our quality of vision is deceased tear production. This, together with changes in eye lid laxity and position, contributes to increased dryness of the eyes. This is more common in women experiencing hormonal imbalances.
What are significant risk factors for the changes in vision that happen as we age?
Certain eye diseases are more common in the elderly, and must be screened for by a comprehensive eye examination annually, since they are often asymptomatic in the early stages. The most important of these conditions, which can even lead to irreversible loss of vision include:
Age related macular degeneration
Seniors with the following issues are more prone to the age related changes in vision. These include:
Chronic diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, thyroid disease or high blood pressure.
A family history of glaucoma or macular degeneration.
Use of medication for thyroid, asthma, depression, prostrate disorders and arthritis
Smoking can aggravate preexisting diseases, and also increase the risk of diseases like dry eyes, AMD, glaucoma cataract and diabetic retinopathy.
What can we do to cope with what happens to vision as we age?
It is important to realize that some changes that happen to vision as we age are normal and essential to the process of ageing. What we can do to make sure that they do not hamper our day to day activities are the following:
Ensure a healthy and balanced diet and get adequate exercise. Stop smoking, to prevent vision loss as you age. Make sure your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol are adequately controlled.
Ensure a regular, annual eye examination with your ophthalmologist so your prescription for glasses is up to date, and any diseases which can potentially affect your vision as you age, are picked up early.
Always discuss with your eye doctor your other systemic diseases and the medication you are taking, so that your doctor can make appropriate decisions for continued eye health well into your golden years.