Adults over 40 who have the following health or work issues may be particularly at risk for developing eye and vision problems:
What it means to experience age-related vision changes
As you age, you need more light to see as well as you used to. Brighter lights in your work area or next to your reading chair will help make reading and other close-up tasks easier.
Printed materials can become less clear, in part because the lens in your eye becomes less flexible over time. This makes it harder for your eyes to focus on near objects than when you were younger.
When driving, you may notice additional glare from headlights at night or sun reflecting off windshields or pavement during the day. Changes in your lenses in your eyes cause light entering the eye to be scattered rather than focused precisely on the retina. This creates more glare.
The normally clear lens located inside your eye may start to discolor. This makes it harder to see and distinguish between certain color shades.
With age, the tear glands in your eyes will produce fewer tears. This is particularly true for women experiencing hormone changes. As a result, your eyes may feel dry and irritated. Having an adequate amount of tears is essential for keeping your eyes healthy and for maintaining clear sight.
Encountering problems with near vision can be frustrating
If you have never needed eyeglasses or contact lenses to correct distance vision, then experiencing near vision problems after age 40 can be concerning and frustrating. You may feel like you’ve abruptly lost the ability to read the newspaper or see the cell phone numbers.
Actually, these changes in your focusing power have been occurring gradually since childhood. Now your eyes don’t have enough focusing power to see clearly for reading and other close vision tasks.
Losing this focusing ability for near vision is called presbyopia
This occurs because the lens inside the eye becomes less flexible. This flexibility allows the eye to change focus from objects that are far away to objects that are close.
People with presbyopia have several options to regain clear near vision. They include:
- Eyeglasses, including single vision reading glasses and multifocal lenses
- Contact lenses, including monovision and bifocal lenses
- Laser surgery and other refractive surgery procedures
As you continue to age, presbyopia becomes more advanced. You may notice that you need to change your eyeglass or contact lens prescriptions more frequently than you used to. Around age 60, these changes in near vision should stop, and prescription changes should occur less frequently.
Presbyopia can’t be prevented or cured, but most people should be able to regain clear, comfortable near vision for all of their lifestyle needs.
Presbyopia is a vision condition in which the shape of the crystalline lens of your eye changes. These changes make it difficult to focus on close objects.
Presbyopia may seem to occur suddenly, but sight reduction occurs over several years. Presbyopia usually becomes noticeable in the early to mid-40s, but the reduction of your focusing starts as early as childhood.
Presbyopia is a natural part of the aging process of the eye. It is not a disease, and it cannot be prevented.
Some signs of presbyopia include holding reading materials at arm’s length, blurred vision at normal reading distance and eye fatigue along with headaches when doing close work. A comprehensive eye examination will include testing for presbyopia.
To help you compensate for presbyopia, your doctor of optometry can prescribe reading glasses, multifocal glasses or contact lenses. Presbyopia can complicate other common vision conditions like nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. Your doctor will determine the specific lenses to allow you to see clearly and comfortably. You may only need to wear your glasses for close work like reading, but you may find that wearing them all the time is more convenient and helpful.
The effects of presbyopia will continue over your lifetime. Therefore, you may need to periodically change your eyewear to maintain clear and comfortable vision.
Warning signs of eye health problems
Frequent changes in how clearly you can see may be a sign of diabetes or hypertension (high blood pressure). These chronic conditions can damage the tiny blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive layer at the back of the eye. This vision loss can sometimes be permanent.
Occasionally, you may see spots or floaters in your eyes. In most cases, these are shadowy images of particles floating in the fluid that fills the inside of the eye. Although they can be bothersome, spots and floaters typically don’t harm vision. They are a natural part of the eye’s aging process.
But if you suddenly see more floaters than normal, along with bright, flashing lights, see your optometrist immediately. This could be a sign that you have a tear in your retina, and it could detach. This should be treated immediately to prevent serious loss of vision.
Losing peripheral or side vision may be a sign of glaucoma. Glaucoma occurs when the optic nerve is damaged and no longer transmits all visual images to the brain. It often has no symptoms until damage your vision has begun.
Straight lines that appear distorted or wavy or an empty area in the center of your vision could be signs of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The disease affects the macula, which is the part of your retina that is responsible for central vision. The disease causes a blind spot in the middle of your field of vision.
Regular eye examinations and early diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases can help you preserve good vision throughout your life.