Beginning in childhood and continuing through every life stage, the human body changes. Many of these changes are normal, and our bodies adjust to them over time. Most of us experience a noticeable difference in how well we see as we get older, as well.
Lots of people don't deal with any vision problems for a long time, then end up facing the consequences of aging eyes later. You may have never needed glasses or contacts before, but it's important to be cognizant of your vision and eye health. It's easier for someone who has had regular eye checkups to follow up on any problems, but you should know when it's the right time to see an eye doctor, even if you've never needed to before.
Whether or not gradual vision changes from aging eyes require corrective eyeglasses or contact lenses, it's important to get regular eye exams as we enter midlife, when our risk of eye disease increases.
Most Vision Changes Are a Natural Part of Aging
In our mid-forties, we often start losing the ability to see clearly up close and may need to hold reading material farther away in order to see the print. This normal aging change in the eye's focusing ability, called presbyopia, cannot be prevented but can be corrected. The simplest options include reading glasses, prescription eyeglasses, or contact lenses. Another age-related eye condition is dry eye, caused by a decrease in tear production.
Some Vision Changes May Indicate a More Serious Eye Condition
Most people undergo vision changes without developing more serious problems that can impact daily living, but certain changes may be an early warning sign of eye disease. Here are some symptoms that should prompt you to see your eye doctor:
- Blurry vision may be a sign of a cataract or a clouding of the lens.
- Seeing spots or "floaters" may indicate a possible tear in the retina.
- Fuzzy images or a blind spot in the field of vision are common signs of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
- Loss of side (peripheral) vision may lead to glaucoma, which can result in vision loss or blindness if not treated.
Eye Health Tips
The health of aging eyes should be a priority, just like eating well and getting physical activity. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends these healthy habits for protecting aging eyes:
- Know your family's eye health history. If eye disease runs in the family, you may be at greater risk for future vision loss.
- Eat an eye-healthy diet. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and fish high in omega-3 fatty acids helps keep eyes healthy. Some nutrients, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc, may reduce the risk of eye disease.
- Don't smoke. Smoking causes serious vision damage.
- Use protective eyewear outdoors. Sunglasses protect the eyes from the sun's damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays. To provide adequate protection, sunglasses should block out 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays.
Eye health may have an effect on overall health, so even if you've gone through life without any type of vision problems before, it's something you want to be aware of as you get older. While some vision loss as you age is normal, you don't want vision problems to become more serious, so treat your eyes as essential pieces of your health alongside everything else.