Everyone’s eyesight is bound to slip a little bit as they age. Still, there’s so much good you can do for your eyes to reduce or prevent vision problems. When it comes to seeing your grandchildren’s faces clearly, rereading your favorite book, or driving yourself down memory lane (maybe literally), you don’t want to leave your vision to luck alone.
Here are the six common age-related vision and eye problems:
Age-Related Eye Problem 1: Presbyopia
Starting in your 40’s, the lenses in your eyes may begin to become less flexible and lose their ability to change shape and focus light precisely. As a result, it becomes increasingly difficult for your eyes to focus on close-up objects, like small print in books and on medicine bottles. Even if you do experience presbyopia at some point in your life, the good news is, it is easily corrected with reading glasses or minor surgery.
Age-Related Eye Problem 2: Age-related macular degeneration
AMD, as it’s known by its acronym, is one of the most common causes of vision loss in individuals above the age of 50 (although most cases occur after 60). It results from gradual damage to the macula, the central region of the retina responsible for maintaining the center of your field of vision. Eventually, this leads to a dimming of your central vision or even causes blind spots, making some of the most common daily activities, like driving, a challenge.
Age-Related Eye Problem 3: Cataracts
Your eyes contain lenses that focus light onto the retinas at the back of the eyes and, as many people age, these lenses tend to become cloudy, decreasing your ability to see clearly. Although chances of developing cataracts increases after the age of 60, most people don’t encounter any severe vision loss until well into their 70’s or even 80’s.
Age-Related Eye Problem 4: Glaucoma
Oftentimes known as the “silent thief of sight,” glaucoma is a little more difficult to detect because there are no symptoms in its early stages. It can be caused by increased pressure within the eye due but can also occur in people with normal levels of pressure. If left untreated, glaucoma can lead to nerve damage, peripheral vision loss, and even blindness.
Age-Related Eye Problem 5: Diabetic retinopathy
When you have diabetes, inflammation and poor blood flow resulting from the disease can cause some of the blood vessels in the back of your eyes to swell and leak fluid. Sometimes, new blood vessels are formed to compensate for the damaged vessels. This network of damaged and extra blood vessels begins to affect vision over time, eventually leading to blindness if left untreated.
Although diabetic retinopathy is not 100% preventable for those living with diabetes, it’s possible to slow down its progression by healthy management of your diabetes, combined with treatment from an optometrist.
Age-Related Eye Problem 6: Dry eye
Your eyes are constantly producing tears to lubricate and protect themselves from debris and the elements. Tear production might decrease for a number of different factors regardless of your age, but it becomes even more common as we get older. As a result, your eyes might begin to burn or become more frequently irritated. Not to worry though, there are endless over-the-counter eye drops available and new technology to help manage and treat dry eye. If it remains a problem, talk to your eye doctor about more permanent solutions.
A good eye care routine includes an annual eye exam to help improve the chances of early detection and proper treatment for some of these eye problems. Starting at the age of 60 (40 if you’re African American), this becomes even more important, because you’re more likely to start experiencing vision problems.
After your first eye exam, your eye doctor has a baseline, making it much easier for them to track the changes in your eyes and provide the right eye care, especially if you are predisposed to any particular conditions. During the first appointment, it is very important to discuss your family history with them and to report any symptoms you’ve been having or changes in your vision.
Ultimately, to prevent and minimize vision problems mentioned above, these symptoms need to be detected and treated early. Having an eye doctor examine your eyes regularly is the best way to guarantee that they stay as healthy as possible. If for some reason there are issues, then your doctor will advise you accordingly about which lifestyle changes you should make and which treatment options you might have to prevent further damage to your eyes.
Vision insurance can help keep the costs of these annual eye exams low. Luckily, finding the right doctor is easy with VSP, which has the nation’s largest network of eye doctors, so you’re bound to find an eye doctor that is near your home or work.
It may sound simple, but maintaining the health of your eyes is very similar to maintaining the health of your body. All the systems in our bodies are connected, so it makes sense, right? These four eye health tips will help you make your own luck:
Eye Health Tip 1: Maintain a balanced diet
Foods rich in antioxidants and vitamins A, C, and E, like fresh fruits and dark, leafy greens, all directly support the health of your eyes. Additionally, consuming smaller portions, choosing lean proteins (e.g., chickpeas and other legumes), and consuming foods rich in fiber and complex carbohydrates will help you not only maintain a healthy weight, but also better manage your blood pressure, blood sugar, and stress levels; all of which are risk factors for health and eye problems alike. No matter how you chew it, a balanced diet is a win-win.
Eye Health Tip 2: Exercise regularly
Exercise has been shown to not only improve your overall health as you age, but also your eye health. One study from the British Journal of Ophthalmology found that exercising more than three times per week reduced the chances of developing macular degeneration by 70%. So, no matter what your reason, getting active gets results.
Eye Health Tip 3: Limit alcohol and tobacco consumption
Both smoking and drinking act as stressors on your body that raise your blood pressure, increase oxidative stress, and decrease blood circulation. By cutting back on drinking and giving up smoking entirely, you can maintain healthy eyes in the later stages in your life.
Eye Health Tip 4: Protect your eyes from the sun
Block out the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays by wearing sunglasses that wrap around your face completely and have lenses that filter out the entire UV spectrum.
By following these eye care tips and seeing your eye doctor regularly, you’ll be stacking the odds in your favor for healthy eyes that are in it for the long haul. Just like you. And that has nothing to do with luck.
To make things more affordable, consider enrolling in a vision insurance plan. If you don’t have vision insurance, find out how VSP Individual Vision Plans can help you save on your next eye exam or pair of glasses.
This blog was reviewed by VSP Network Doctor Gabriela Olivares, O.D. Dr. Olivares earned her degree in Optometry at Nova Southeastern University in 2014. Her undergraduate schooling was completed at the University of Central Florida, where she received a bachelor’s degree in Molecular Biology and Microbiology. She currently works at a private practice with five other optometrists in Pembroke Pines, Florida.