Changes in eye health and quality of vision are a natural, and inevitable, part of aging. You may have noticed a very large proportion of people over 40 requiring bifocals or reading glasses. This is called presbyopia.
What is Presbyopia?
Presbyopia is caused by the thickening and loss of elasticity in the lens of the eye. This makes it harder for the eye to focus on nearby objects.
You may have noticed someone in the early stages of presbyopia holding a food package at arm’s length and squinting trying to read the ingredients.
While presbyopia is a natural part of aging, there are several other eye conditions that can have a more severe impact on vision for older adults.
Regular eye examinations and paying attention to possible warning signs of deeper vision problems can be very helpful in preventing serious eye conditions.
Signs of Developing Eye Conditions
Being aware of symptoms that may indicate the beginnings of vision issues can help recognize the problem before it has a chance to get out of control.
Some common symptoms and warning signs to watch out for, are:
- Chronic dry eyes
- Problems reading small print
- Lengthy adjustment period for going from light to dark or vice versa
- Oversensitivity to bright lights or glare
- Reduced night vision
- Trouble distinguishing colors and contrasts
- Impaired depth perception
- Difficulty judging distances
- Persistently watery eyes, consistently tearing up
- Involuntary twitching or uncontrollable eye movements
While these symptoms can be associated with anything from mild irritations to severe eye conditions, it is a good idea to get checked out by a doctor or healthcare professional if you or a loved one is experiencing any of these warning signs.
Vision Loss and More Serious Eye Problems
If vision issues go unchecked and untreated for long enough, they can develop into more severe conditions that may cause irreparable damage.
Some serious vision problems that can be debilitating for seniors, include:
- Macular degeneration
- Diabetic retinopathy
Floaters refer to little spots or flashes of light that may look like trails across your field of vision. These can occur naturally in certain circumstances, like a flash of bright light, or they can sometimes be the result of heat stroke.
However, if seeing floaters is a regular occurrence, and the amount of spots is increasing in number, then it may be a sign of a more serious eye condition. Seeing floaters on a consistent basis warrants a visit to the doctor to find out more about the root cause of the issue.
Cataracts involve a clouding over of the lens of the eye, blocking light from reaching the retina.
Cataracts are the most common cause of vision loss or impaired vision for seniors.
A cataract may be difficult to detect in the early stages, only showing in the form of slightly blurred vision. Symptoms become more severe the longer the issue goes untreated.
There are 3 main types of cataracts:
- Occurs at the back of the lens
- People with diabetes are at a greater risk of developing this type of cataract
- Occurs in the central area, or nucleus, of the lens
- This type is generally associated with aging
- This type starts on the edge of the lens and works its way towards the centre
- Appears as white blockages on the lens cortex
Glaucoma occurs when excessive pressure from within the eye causes damage and destruction to nerve fibres in the retina.
Glaucoma that goes untreated can lead to progressive and irrevocable vision loss. It is the leading cause of irreversible vision loss and blindness across the globe.
Glaucoma is very difficult to detect in the early stages because outwardly noticeable symptoms don’t tend to manifest until significant vision loss has occurred.
The best way to prevent glaucoma is through regular eye exams.
Macular degeneration is often an age-related disease that involves deterioration of the macula, which is the central area of the retina, required for sharp focus.
Like glaucoma, damage done by macular degeneration is irreversible.
If caught in the early stages, the disease can be managed, and permanent loss of vision can be minimized.
As the name of the condition indicates, diabetic retinopathy is typically the result of a complication from diabetes.
Diabetic retinopathy is a consequence of damage to the blood vessels in the retina that are responsible for light-sensitivity. Blockages in these blood vessels can prevent the retina from getting the oxygen it requires to function.
Early symptoms may include seeing floaters and blurred vision. Seniors with diabetes should be especially vigilant with regular eye examinations.