Eye Health as You Age

By Tracy Wright

So, the saying goes, “the eyes are the windows to the soul.” Unfortunately, those “windows” may become blurry over time as our eyes age just like the other parts of our bodies. Those with existing vision problems may notice these issues get worse or they may develop new ones. And those of us who have never had vision problems may start to notice changes.

How Do Our Eyes Change

Our eyes continue to change through the years. Ways they do this can include not being able to see up close, not being able to distinguish colors or even not being able to recognize changes between light and dark areas. For example, as we grow older it may be more difficult to drive at night due to the varied levels of lights from cars, road signs and traffic lights, said the National Institute on Health (NIH) Institute on Aging. NIH assures us that these problems can be solved via corrective glasses, contact lenses or improved lighting.

Other symptoms of eye problems may include excessive tears caused by light sensitivity or weather which could be a symptom of allergies or dry eyes. Drops or glasses could help. Some of these symptoms could also be caused by a blocked tear duct or infection, which can be treated by eye care professionals, the Institute said.

As we get older, our eyes change. This means it becomes increasingly more important to be diligent about our eye health as we age. Regular eye exams help to monitor any problems as they arise. See an ophthalmologist or optometrist for a dilated eye exam and be sure to address any problems you may be having. Since many eye conditions do not have symptoms early on, it’s important to get these exams regularly so you can monitor any issues before they get serious.

A dilated eye exam is recommended every year beginning at age 60, where eyes are dilated by special drops that allow your doctor to see your eyes more closely. This exam checks visual acuity and side vision, eye muscle function, pupil response, and problems with inner parts of your eye, according to the National Eye Institute.

Age-related macular degeneration “can harm the sharp, central vision needed to see objects clearly and to do common things like driving and reading,” NIH said. Glaucoma is another eye condition that is caused by too much fluid pressure and can lead to vision loss or blindness. Cataracts are characterized by cloudy eyes which can cause blurry or hazy vision. Fortunately, regular eye exams can detect these conditions, which are treatable with a variety of interventions like drops, laser therapy or surgery, according to the National Eye Institute.

Certain conditions that you can develop as you get older can also affect your vision including high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy is an eye condition afflicting those with the disease and usually has no symptoms. The NIH recommends regulating your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol to help prevent diabetic retinopathy, or at least slow its progress in early stages.

Keeping Your Eyes Healthy

Fortunately, there are steps you can protect your eye health. Keeping your body healthy can prevent serious eye conditions as many can be precipitated by physical health conditions. Staying physically active can prevent conditions like Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Eating well can also help, and certain foods high in omega-3 fatty acids —salmon, eggs, and nuts— are good for your eyes, too, said the National Eye Institute. Smoking can also contribute to macular degeneration and cataracts so quitting is a great option to keep your eyes healthy..

Protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses that shield your eyes from harmful UVA and UVB rays as well as protective eyewear when doing sports or working with chemicals. Make sure your eyes get a break from too much screen time from either laptops or smart phones, said the National Eye Institute.

Steps to Correct Vision

If you have to take steps to correct your vision, there are several options available to you. You can choose from glasses, contact lessons or corrective surgery to fix eye problems you may get as you grow older.

Glasses are often affordable, portable and easy option for vision correction with a wide variety of options (bifocal, trifocal, multifocal, and varifocal progressive lenses), according to the London Eye Clinic (LEC). The drawbacks of glasses are they can be easily damaged or lost and cost more in the long-term.

Contact lenses are a suitable alternative to glasses as they don’t limit activity, are considered a more attractive choice and can actually offer more visual acuity and a clearer field of vision. Unfortunately, they may put your eyes at a higher risk of infection, make your eyes susceptible for redness and dryness, and may be inconvenient for travel.

Finally, laser eye surgery is a “permanent” fix for vision correction and is considered a relatively safe elective procedure, the LEC said. It also typically provides a higher visual acuity than both contact lenses or glasses. However, not everyone is a good candidate for laser surgery, the upfront costs are higher, and there are risks involved with every surgery.

Each person needs to talk to both your primary care provider and your eye professional when considering which choice is best for you, taking into consideration costs, lifestyle, vision and overall health.


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