It is normal to notice changes in your vision as you get older. Among the most common changes for older adults are:
- Losing the ability to see up close
- Having trouble distinguishing colors, such as blue from black
- Needing more time to adjust to changing levels of light
These issues are frequently simple to resolve. Glasses, contact lenses, and better lighting may assist you in maintaining your lifestyle and independence. Some eye diseases and conditions become more common as you get older, and some eye changes are more serious. Maintain the health of your eyes by having regular eye exams so that any problems can be identified early.
Protecting Your Vision
Have your eyes checked by an eye care professional on a regular basis, such as an ophthalmologist or optometrist. Early detection and treatment of any problems can help protect your vision and prevent vision loss. Make a list of your questions and concerns to bring to the doctor’s attention. Tell them about the medications you’re taking. Some of them can harm your eyes.
Normal changes in the aging eye do not usually impair your vision. However, they can occasionally be symptoms of a more serious problem. Your eyes, for example, may leak tears. This can occur as a result of light sensitivity, wind, or temperature changes. Sunglasses and eye drops may be beneficial. Leaking tears can be a symptom of dry eyes, an infection, or a blocked tear duct. These issues can be addressed by your eye doctor.
If you wear glasses or contact lenses, you should also have your prescription checked. Even minor changes in vision can increase your risk of falling and injuring yourself. It is critical to wear the correct prescription glasses or contact lenses.
DIALATED EYE EXAMS
Many people do not notice any signs or symptoms of eye diseases in the early stages. A dilated eye exam performed by an eye care professional is the only way to detect certain common eye diseases while they are still treatable — and before they cause vision loss. Even if you have good vision and don’t wear contacts or glasses, everyone over the age of 50 should have a dilated eye exam once a year or as recommended by your eye care professional. After the age of 60, you should have a dilated eye exam once or twice a year. Most people who have diabetes or high blood pressure should have a dilated exam at least once a year.
During this exam, the eye doctor will place drops in your eyes to widen (dilate) your pupils so that he or she can see more clearly inside each eye. Following the exam, your vision may become blurry, and your eyes may become more sensitive to light. This is only for a few hours. Make arrangements to have someone else drive you home.
Consult your primary care physician on a regular basis to screen for diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. If these diseases are not controlled or treated, they can cause vision problems.
Eye Diseases & Conditions
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) can impair the sharp, central vision required to see objects clearly and perform everyday tasks such as driving and reading. During a dilated eye exam, your eye care professional will ask about your family history and look for signs of AMD. There are treatments available, and certain dietary supplements may help reduce your chances of it worsening.
- Diabetic retinopathy may occur if you have diabetes. It takes time to develop, and there are often no early warning signs. If you have diabetes, make an appointment for a dilated eye exam at least once a year. Controlling your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels can help prevent or slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy in its early stages. Laser surgery at a later stage can sometimes prevent it from worsening.
- Cataracts are cloudy areas in the lens of the eye that cause blurred or hazy vision. Some cataracts remain small and have little effect on your vision. Others enlarge and impair vision. Cataract surgery can restore vision and is a common and safe treatment. If you have a cataract, your eye doctor will monitor changes over time to determine whether you would benefit from surgery.
- Glaucoma is typically caused by an increase in intraocular fluid pressure. It can cause vision loss and blindness if not treated. Glaucoma patients frequently have no early symptoms or pain. You can help protect yourself by having yearly dilated eye exams. Prescription eye drops, lasers, and surgery can all be used to treat glaucoma.
- Dry eyes occur when the tear glands do not function properly. You may experience stinging or burning sensations, a sandy sensation as if something is in your eye, or other discomfort. Dry eyes are common as people age, particularly in women. To treat dry eyes, your eye doctor may advise you to use a home humidifier or air purifier, as well as special eye drops (artificial tears) or ointments. Treatment options for more severe cases may include prescription medication, tear duct plugs, or surgery.
You cannot correct your vision with glasses, contact lenses, medication, or surgery if you have low vision. Some people become afflicted as they age. If you experience any of the following symptoms, you may have low vision:
- Can’t see well enough to do everyday tasks like reading or cooking
- Have difficulty recognizing the faces of your friends or family
- Have trouble reading street signs
- Find that lights don’t seem as bright
If you have any of these problems, ask your eye care professional to test you for low vision.
TIPS FOR LOW VISION
Vision rehabilitation programs and special aids, such as a magnifying device, can assist you in adapting to vision loss and making the most of your remaining vision. Remember to check with your eye doctor to see if you can drive safely with your vision. If you are unable to drive, local organizations may be able to arrange rides for you, or public transportation may be available.
Other tips that may help:
- Increase the brightness of your room’s lighting
- Use bold, black felt-tip markers to write
- To help you write in a straight line, use paper with bold lines
- Place colored tape on the edge of any stairs in your home to help you see them and avoid falling
- Install dark-colored light switches and electrical outlets to make them easier to see against light-colored walls
- Use motion-activated lights that turn on when you walk into a room. These may assist you in avoiding accidents caused by insufficient lighting
- Use large-print clocks and phones, and place large-print labels on the microwave and stove