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Aging and Decreased Eye Power

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Vision impairs as the body ages. Awareness is essential for timely checkups and treatments for effective management. Read the article to know more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Prashant Koranmath

Published At November 22, 2022
Reviewed AtFebruary 20, 2023

Introduction

All diseases run into one, old age- Ralph Waldo Emerson. Even eyesight starts showing off changes as age advances. Hereditary factors may generate some, and some are purely due to the progressing age. Lifestyle changes and systemic conditions can worsen the issues even more. Knowledge about the changes is essential to detect and undertake steps to manage the situation.

The mid-40s can be very tricky, as there may be problems reading newspapers, working on the computer, or going through a favorite recipe blog. It happens when the focusing ability gets affected, which may continue to progress with age. Initially, focusing on close objects may be difficult, and gradually it may advance to different conditions like dryness, ulcerations, or inflammation.

What Aggravates Eyesight Problems?

The following conditions may aggravate the eyesight problems-

  • Diabetes and high blood pressure.

  • Family history of glaucoma or macular degeneration.

  • A job where the visual demand is high or eyes are vulnerable.

  • Medications with adverse effects affecting vision.

Things change over time, as do the eyes and vision. The symptoms differ from one person to another. It is vital to notice the symptoms as soon as they arise.

  • Prefer to Read at a Distance- The individual may extend the arm holding the reading material for better focus.

  • Tired Eyes- Eyes may feel tension and strain while focusing on words.

  • A Need to Use More Light - Knowingly or unknowingly, there may be a change in the light source used while reading or working on computers due to the need for a more brilliant and bright light source to see better.

  • Color Differentiation- With age, it may get difficult to differentiate colors.

  • Impaired Tear Production- Tear production decreases with age, and eyes may get dry and irritated, affecting the clarity of eyesight.

  • Blurred Vision- Blurring vision, especially with dim lights, and problems with glare can tense the driving experience.

Presbyopia:

The eye lenses become less flexible with age, making it hard to focus on closer objects. There arises a need to place the reading material at a distance to read, or tension may be felt in reading or focusing due to more strain exerted. One may get annoyed while experiencing blurred vision on reading at an average distance. Presbyopia develops slowly and gradually and stays almost unnoticeable initially. Using reading glasses or bifocal lenses can improve vision. A few types of eye surgeries can also correct this condition. Seek immediate medical help in case of double vision, blurred vision, or sudden vision loss in one eye.

Dry Eyes:

Tears provide lubrication and protect the cornea. Dry eyes occur when tear gland functioning slows down, and as a result, the glands produce either less quantity of tears or poor quality tears- with less lubrication. As a result, dry eyes can cause irritation, a burning sensation, redness, sensitivity to light, a sense of having foreign material or sand in the eyes, watery eyes, and blurred vision. This condition can be treated by artificial tears or eye drops or by applying nighttime gel or ointment. Severe cases may need surgery.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD):

With age, the macula- a part of the retina with cells sensitive to light and responsible for sharp vision- becomes thin and develops a mass of proteins. In AMD, cells from the macula will be lost, affecting the central vision, which is required to see objects clearly and to do activities like reading or driving. AMD tends to run in families and may not compromise the vision initially until around the 60s. In advanced stages, there is no cure for this condition, but dietary supplements can help to an extent in the beginning. In addition, a diet rich in fruits and green leafy vegetables may help to prevent this.

Cataracts:

Cataracts are cloudy or discolored areas in the eye’s lens, causing hazy vision and difficulty focusing. Small cataracts do not change eyesight much, but larger ones affect it significantly. Cataract surgeries are safe treatment options that can restore vision. In addition, vitamin C intake and the use of sunglasses may help prevent cataracts.

Glaucoma:

Visual information is transmitted through the optic nerve from the eyes to the brain, an essential pathway for quality vision. Glaucoma is a hereditary condition damaging the optic nerve. It mainly occurs in older adults when the fluid pressure inside the eyes increases. The symptoms of this condition appear only in the advanced stage and are the leading cause of blindness in older adults. If detected early, the doctor may usually prescribe eye drops. Laser and surgical treatment may also be done in some cases.

Drooping Eyelids (Ptosis):

With age, the muscle supporting the upper eyelid-levator- loses its strength, and the eyelid receives inadequate support and may start to sag. This condition is called Ptosis. As a result, the upper eyelid may droop and interfere with vision. Surgeries can fix this condition.

Floaters and Flashes:

Floaters appear as lines, shapes, or spots in the field of vision. They are tiny clumps of gels in the vitreous of the eye, and their shadows appear in different shapes and forms as floaters. Flashes may be experienced as a streak of lightning or a flash of light in the line of vision. Even though floaters and flashes are not severe problems, if it worsens or shadows occur on the part of the vision, medical help should be taken.

Fuch’s Dystrophy:

In Fuch’s dystrophy, fluid accumulates in the cornea (clear layer of the eye), making it thick and swollen. In this rare condition, the cornea degrades gradually and worsens eyesight. It is characterized by poor vision in the morning, which gradually improves during the rest of the day. It may start in the late 30s or 40s but shows symptoms in the 50s or 60s. Some signs are blurred or cloudy vision, glare, fluctuating vision, and pain. Depending on the symptoms, it can be treated with ointments, eye drops, or surgery.

Diabetic Retinopathy:

Diabetes is a systemic condition that causes many complications, including diabetic retinopathy, affecting the eyes. It is caused by the blood vessels to the light-sensitive tissues (retina) getting damaged. Initially, it may be asymptomatic or present very mild symptoms, which may gradually get worse and cause complete blindness. In the early stages, the small blood vessels may leak fluid, causing blurred vision, worsening progressively, and presenting symptoms like floaters, cloudy or blurred vision, blind spots, and severe vision impairment and blindness. Careful management of diabetes prevents the occurrence of diabetic retinopathy. However, people with diabetes should get regular eye checkups and seek medical advice if the symptoms initiate.

Tearing:

On aging, eyes may become more sensitive to light and temperature changes and produce more tears. Protecting eyes from such exposure is the best method to prevent teary eyes. Wearing sunglasses while going out is an easily accessible option. Tearing may also be due to persistent infection or a blocked tear duct (the tube through which the tear flows).

What Is Low Vision?

Low vision is a condition in which eyesight cannot be restored with the help of any treatment procedures. For example, if a person finds it difficult to recognize the close one’s face, cannot see well to perform daily tasks, or finds the bright light dim and ineffective, they may have low vision. Vision rehabilitation programs or aids can help to adapt to such situations.

How to Adapt to Low Vision?

Here are some tips that will help to adapt to low vision,

Make Home a Safer Place:

  • Brighten the lighting in the room.

  • Arrange the furniture in close areas.

  • Use bright-colored decor and accessories to locate furniture and other things at home.

  • Keep away bulky furniture from the foot traffic areas.

  • Install dark-colored switches.

Other Tips:

  • Use bold and black or bright markers.

  • Use bold line ruled papers for writing purposes.

  • Use a clock with numbers written in large fonts.

How to Keep Vision Healthy?

  • Control and periodically check systemic conditions like diabetes, cholesterol, and blood pressure.

  • Eat nutrient-rich food and take supplements in case of deficiencies.

  • Quit smoking.

  • Stay active and follow a workout routine.

  • Use sunglasses to shield the eyes from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.

  • Bring down the screen time or intermittently take breaks from the screen.

  • Periodically undertake eye checkups or consult the doctor if any symptoms arise.

Conclusion

Issues related to health may be a constant companion during the whole process of aging. However, regular checkups, a healthy lifestyle, and proper medical assistance can make even the retirement years fun-oriented. Age is the number of years of fun you have had. Eyesight is vital, and proper caring cures the issues to an extreme extent.

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Dr. Prashant Koranmath
Dr. Prashant Koranmath

Ophthalmology (Eye Care)

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dry eyesglaucoma
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