Recognizing the Warning Signs of Age-Related Vision Problems
In general, most vision changes that people experience as they age are normal. Some people may only need glasses or inexpensive daily wear contact lenses for reading or doing close-up work. However, to maintain healthy eyes, people over 60 should be aware of the warning signs of age-related vision problems and their possible causes.
Because there are many health problems and eye disorders that can seriously affect vision and possibly lead to visual impairment, it is important to heed these signs and seek medical care. It is also vital that people over 60 have regular eye exams to safeguard their eyesight. According to the American Optometric Association, people over 60 should have a yearly eye exam and should seek immediate eye care if there are noticeable changes in their vision.
Age and Vision Changes
As people age, there can be subtle changes in the function of the eyes. Some common vision changes are:
- Decrease in pupil size
- Some loss of side/peripheral vision
- Decrease in visual acuity
- Shrinking of the vitreous
- Change in color vision/perception
- Lose of eye lens elasticity that can lead to presbyopia (difficulty in focusing on nearby objects)
- Difficulty judging depths and distances
- Age-Related Eye Diseases and Disorders
People who are 60 and over may develop eye disorders that can seriously affect eyesight and lead to partial or permanent loss of vision. However, through early detection and treatment of these conditions, vision loss may be prevented in most cases. Some of the common age-related vision diseases include:
- Cataracts – a cataract is the clouding of the eye lens, which is normally clear.
- Retinal detachment – this eye disorder involves the separation of the retina from the choroid.
- Glaucoma – this eye condition is associated with optic nerve damage and abnormally high eye pressure that can lead to vision loss.
- Diabetic retinopathy – people with diabetes can develop this eye disorder in which small capillaries that supply nourishment to the retina are damaged.
- Dry eye syndrome – this eye condition is characterized by a decrease in tear production and tear quality. It is a problem likely to affect older adults.
- Macular degeneration / (AMD) – this eye disease affects the macula, the area of the retina, which is responsible for central vision.
In an updated 2008 research study on the prevalence of eye diseases in the U.S., the National Eye Institute and Prevent Blindness America report that over 30 million American suffer from the leading causes of vision loss which are cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy. The study also states that the number of patients with these age-related eye diseases is rising.
Warning Signs of Age-Related Vision Problems
It is important to be attentive to sudden symptoms and warning signs of age-related eye problems. This can help people take the necessary steps to prevent any major vision loss.
Usually seeing spots or floaters can be the result of vitreous detachment, which does not present a serious vision problem. However, when a person suddenly notices an increase number of floaters, flashes of bright lights, or a shadow fall across their field of vision, these may be symptoms of retinal detachment.
Symptoms of macular degeneration may vary depending on which type of this disease (wet or dry form) a person has. In general, warning signs of both types of macular degeneration can include blurred vision and a blind spot in the center of the vision field accompanied by a decrease in central vision. Another sign of this condition can be experiencing a distortion in vision where straight lines may appear wavy.
Some warning signs of a cataract are blurred or clouded vision, trouble with night vision, seeing halos around lights, increased sensitivity to light or glare, and double vision.
Glaucoma may also present some of the symptoms associated with cataracts such as problems with night vision. However, other signs are headache, sudden and severe eye pain, reddening of the eye, nausea, and vomiting.
Diabetic retinopathy has symptoms that include eye floaters, blurry vision, blind spots, and possible sudden loss of vision.See the video below to learn more about this condition.
If a person experiences sudden vision loss and or any of these warning signs, they should seek immediate care to prevent partial or permanent vision loss. People can reduce the chance of developing age-related vision problems by having regular eye exams and leading healthy lifestyles.