Over 40? Keep Your Eyesight at its Best
Duplication of our body cells over the years will become a little weaker and that’s normal. So it is with our eye cells. A decline in your eyes’ performance is more-or-less to be expected as you age, especially after 60.
There are normal eye changes that happen as we get older, such as presbyopia which isn’t a disease of the eyes. Presbyopia may begin to cause problems with vision in your 40’s, and, although you may be able to temporarily compensate by holding your reading material farther away, sooner or later, you’ll need glasses.
However, there are some more severe age-related eye diseases. These can more seriously affect our life in old age. We should take conditions such as macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy seriously.
At What Age Do Eye Changes Begin to Occur?
Due to the hardening of the eye lens, in our 40’s, most of us will notice that it’s a little more difficult to focus up close on words, especially fine print. This condition of the hardening of the lens in the eye is called presbyopia. Most people find that their arm becomes too short to be able to hold the reading material out far enough, so they end up getting reading glasses, or bifocals.
Options are available to correct presbyopia. Nowadays, LASIK is popular and there are also corneal inlays, conductive keratoplasty, or a procedure called refractive lens exchange. Into their 50’s and beyond, most people will experience advancing presbyopia and require frequent upgrades in glasses or contact lens prescriptions.
In some cases, a single prescription doesn’t suffice for all your visual needs. You may need a pair of glasses for normal tasks and a different pair to help focus on intermediate ranges like on the computer.
Since 50% of Americans over 65 suffer from some level of cataract formation, it’s also considered an age-related eye disease. With seniors over 70, the percentage is yet higher. Cataracts are such a widespread condition that it has been estimated there will be 30 million Americans with them by the year 2020.
Therefore, for anyone who notices visual changes due to cataracts, it’s wise to see your doctor for help. If your doctor confirms cataracts, then depending on the cataract stage you can decide to either control cataracts with a simple NAC Eye Drops or go for the cataracts surgery. The sooner your cataracts are removed, the better. You don’t want to allow them to advance in any case.
There are many options out there that can preempt the need for glasses. Some people don’t like to have to wear glasses for driving, etc. In these cases, there are multi-focal lens implants or accommodating intraocular lenses that can restore all ranges of vision. Keeping your eyes healthy even as they age is quite doable with a little effort.
More Serious Age-Related Eye Conditions
With senior Americans, macular degeneration is the highest rated cause of blindness. It is also known as age-related macular degeneration or AMD. And, more than 2 million in the US have it, according to statistics related by the National Eye Institute (NEI). Moreover, that number is expected to rise to more than double by 2050 to 5.4 million.
Unfortunately, an estimated 40% of diabetics over the age of 40 suffer from some degree of diabetic retinopathy, according to NEI. This is a serious condition that can lead to blindness.
As we age, our risk of glaucoma increases with every decade after 40 years of age. In your 40’s, the risk is 1%. By the time we reach our 80’s, it’s 12%. Genetics have something to do with it. There will be a 50% increase in incidents of glaucoma by 2020.
The Effects of Aging on Other Eye Structures
Our eyes change in various ways as we age. Some of these changes include and are not limited by:
Reduction of Pupil Size
The muscles surrounding our pupils can weaken as we get older. As a result, the pupil actually becomes smaller and less able to adjust to changes in lighting. Due to this, people in their 60’s require 3x more light than people in their 20’s. In addition, sunlight can daze seniors more easily than younger people, especially when going from a dimly lit building into the daylight. Photochromic lenses and anti-reflective coating can help with this problem.
The human body produces less tears as we get older, especially post-menopausal women. For this reason, artificial tears or eye-drops are available for comfort throughout the day. Your doctor can also prescribe dry eye medication.
Loss of Peripheral Vision
The field of vision can decrease in size by one to three degrees for every decade of life. That means that when we reach 70 to 80 years of age, we may have lost 20 to 30 degrees of our peripheral vision.As a result of this loss of visual field, there’s a higher risk of accidents on the highway. This is one reason why seniors should look both ways when approaching intersections.
Colors may become duller with less contrast. That’s because the cells in the retina that detect colorlose their sensitivity as we grow older. The result is that colors lose their intensity with less contrast between colors. Blues may fade or be washed out. We don’t have a treatment yet for this condition. So, it’s something to be aware of, especially where it affects your career.
In some people, the vitreous inside the eye will start to liquefy, pulling away from the retina. This causes “spots and floaters” and, possibly, flashes of light. Although it is generally harmless, it can also signal the onset of a detached retina. Moreover, this is quite a severe problem that can result in loss of sight if it isn’t treated quickly. Therefore, if you have flashes or floaters, it’s wise to see an eye doctor.