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Coming of age - Vision changes to expect in the elderly

Coming of age - Vision changes to expect in the elderly

Ageing is not an option, we’ve all got to hit our best version and wiser self at some point. But it is how gracefully we handle the process and how lucky we are, to make it incredibly the best time of our life.

Ageing brings a better understanding of the world. Unfortunately, it also causes a rise in health problems like ageing eye condition and diseases. With proper preventive measures and lifestyle changes, we can successfully avoid developing all sorts of age-related eye problems. So to arm you up against any possible eye threat, I’ll cover the common visual changes in our eyes caused by ageing.

Here’s how ageing impact your eyes -

  • The lenses lose their elasticity and thus stiffen, making it difficult to focus on close-by objects.
  • The lenses turn denser, causing it difficult to see clearly in dim light.
  • The number of nerve cells decreases, damaging the depth perception.
  • The pupils react slowly to changes in light
  • And the eyes produce less fluid, making them frequently dry.

Common eye conditions due to ageing

1. Loss of near vision

People in their 40s often find it difficult to see close-by objects easily. This age-related change in vision is called Presbyopia, that occurs when the lens in the eye loses its elasticity and stiffens. Normally, the lens in the eyes changes its shape to place the light on the retina to create an image.

But when your eyes stiffen, the lenses don’t change their position and the light isn’t placed correctly on the retina, making it difficult to focus on close-by objects. Presbyopia is a normal old age eye problem that gradually heightens over time. People with presbyopia have to hold things at an arm’s length to see properly. It can be corrected using reading or varifocal glasses.

Learn more about presbyopia symptoms, causes and treatment.

2. Eye strain in dim light

One of the signs of ageing eyes can be witnessed on how they react in a dim lighted room. Older adults find it difficult to see in dim light as the lens turns less transparent. The eyes turn denser that makes it difficult for the light to pass through the retina at the back of the eyes. Thus, reading, watching, or seeing anything in dim light won’t be viable for seniors. They require brighter lighting to see things correctly.

3. Floaters

Ageing also results in seeing more tiny black specks moving across the individual field of vision. These coloured specks are called floaters. These are minute fragments of solidified fluid in the eyes. Most adults notice getting floaters in a well-lit room or an outdoor bright area.

Usually, floaters are normal and these don’t really interfere with your vision. But if they increase in number at a sudden then it indicates eye problems like retinal detachments. You must immediately see an optometrist as soon as possible.

4. Change in colour perception

As the lens turns more yellow at an older age, seniors perceive colours differently. Some colours can appear less bright and contrast while the lighter colours appeal even more difficult to see. Change in colour perception isn't common among all older adults. But, most older people experience difficulty in reading black letters printed on a blue background or reading any blue coloured letters.

5. Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (Dry eyes)

One of the common eye problems of ageing is experiencing frequent dry-eyes. It happens due to a shortage of the cells that are responsible for producing fluids that lubricate the eyes. The tear glands lose out on enough tears. Dry eyes can be difficult to manage, it’s quite uncomfortable, causing itching or burning sensation. To avoid these harsh conditions, we suggest you use a humidifier in your home or use eye drops that simulate real tears.

Opposite to dry eyes, you can also experience excessive tearing due to sensitivity from light, temperature, or wind changes. Try to avoid visiting places with extreme weather or wear sunglasses to protect yourself. Tearing is also a significant symptom of serious problems like an eye infection or blocked tear duct. People with dry eyes can also experience excessively watery eyes. You must consult your optometrist to treat both of these conditions.

Common Eye Diseases Due to Ageing-

1. Cataract

A cataract is one of the significant eye diseases of ageing, that results in the clouding of the lens leading to a decrease in vision. It develops with age and can affect one or both of your eyes. It causes blurry vision and forms halos around the light. Cataract also makes you see faded colours, causing trouble with bright and dim light.

Know more about Cataract signs, symptoms and treatment.

2. Glaucoma

Glaucoma is one of the most concerning eye diseases that result in permanent sight loss. It is one of the biggest causes of blindness around the world for people over the age of 60. It occurs when there’s pressure applied to the optic nerve. Glaucoma occurs when there’s abnormally high pressure in your eyes. And with glaucoma, you must be extra careful as it doesn't showcase any early signs or symptoms.

Learn about the cause, symptom, and treatment of Glaucoma.

3. Retinal disorders

Damage to the retina, a thin lining on the back of the eye results in retinal disorders. These small linings detect visual images and pass them on to the brain for us to interpret.

a) Age-related Macular degeneration (AMD)

AMD is known for the loss of cells in the macula that’s responsible for detailed vision such as facial recognition and reading. Affecting older adults in their 50’s and 60’s, AMD makes performing day-to-day activities like reading or recognising people's faces difficult.

Read what are the causes, symptoms, risk factors and treatment of AMD.

b) Retinal detachment

An eye disorder that occurs when the retina's inner and outer layer are separated. Making it difficult for the brain to communicate with the vision. You experience sudden spots or flashes or flight, wavy visuals of water, or a dark shadow created on your field of vision.

c) Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication caused by diabetes that occurs when the eye’s blood vessels start to leak fluids. It results in blurry vision, floaters, blind spots, or no symptoms at all. There’s no cure or treatment to diabetic retinopathy other than staying at the top of your health and steering clear from its risk factors. Frequent eye tests can help detect it in time.

4. Conjunctivitis

A common ageing condition, Conjunctivitis is also known as pink eye. It results from the inflammation of the outer layer of the white part of the eye. It causes your eyes to look pink or red and cause pain, itchiness, irritation and burning sensation. You can use artificial tears, or press your eyes with a cold or warm cloth for a few times daily.

5. Corneal Diseases

Diseases that affect the cornea such as Corneal dystrophies, ocular herpes, Keratitis and other conditions like redness, watery eyes, reduce vision or halo effect. While most of these corneal diseases can be treated using prescription eye drops or pills. While the advanced corneal disease requires extensive treatment.

How to prevent ageing eye condition and diseases?

Ageing itself doesn’t cause these severe eye conditions and diseases, you can take vital preventive measures to stop them from happening to you. Here’s what to do to prevent age-related eye condition

Annual eye tests - Visit your optometrist every year to get a comprehensive eye test to detect problems as early as possible.

Eat healthy - A balanced diet can help you escape from many severe eye diseases, so eat right.

Stop Smoking or Drinking

Tobacco and alcohol consumption causes numerous deadly diseases to your eyes and the rest of the body. So drink them in less count or just get rid of them.

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