Aging eyes – what happens to your sight as you get older
Tuesday 4 July 2017
You may have always had good vision but as you reach your 40s you may start to see age-related eyesight changes, such as presbyopia that causes problems seeing clearly at close distances when reading and doing computer work. It’s perfectly normal for ageing to catch up with your eyes eventually as your risk of developing many eye and vision problems increases with age.
So it’s worth taking some time to understand the normal ageing process for your eyes and also to be aware of the warning signs of eye health problems so that you can seek treatment early. Many common eye problems can be treated effectively if caught early.
In this article we’ll look at some common age-related vision changes and eye diseases through each decade milestone.
Vision changes you can expect in your 40s
Unfortunately, you can’t escape presbyopia, a difficulty with near vision focussing. It means you need to hold your mobile phone and reading material further away from your eyes to see them more clearly.
Presbyopia occurs because the lens inside your eye hardens and becomes less flexible over time. A flexible lens allows your eye to change focus from far away objects to those nearby. It is often a significant and concerning time as you experience these ageing vision problems.
There are a number of treatment options for presbyopia that allow you to regain clear near vision including: corrective eyeglasses and contact lenses, and refractive surgery such as laser surgery.
As you continue to age, you may find that your presbyopia becomes more advanced and requires a change in prescription more frequently until you reach around 60 years of age when these changes should stop.
Vision changes you can expect in your 50s
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
AMD is a painless gradual eye disease that blurs what you see when you focus straight ahead, known as your central vision. This can cause difficulty in reading, driving, recognising people’s faces and colours appear less vibrant.
These symptoms are the result of AMD affecting the function of the part of your eye (usually both eyes) that allows you to see fine detail, called your macula.
There are two types of AMD: dry and wet.
Dry AMD is the most common and least serious type of AMD. Cells of the macula become damaged by a build-up of drusen (yellow deposits beneath your retina). Dry AMD causes gradual vision loss over many years. Treatment aims to help with your remaining vision, such as using magnifying lenses when reading. Some people with dry AMD go on to develop wet AMD.
Wet AMD is more serious and early treatment is required to reduce the risk of severe vision loss. It develops when abnormal blood vessels underneath the macula form and damage it’s cells.
Treatment of wet AMD normally involves anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) medication to prevent your vision getting any worse by stopping more blood vessels developing. Laser surgery can also be effective in destroying abnormal blood vessels.
Vision changes you can expect in your 60s
Developing cataracts is a normal part of growing older and most people over the age of 65 start to get them. Some people in their 40s and 50s and younger can also have cataracts.
Cataracts are a clouding of your lens in one or both eyes due to a build-up of protein. They cause blurry vision as the cloudy lens prevents light rays from passing through it. Cataracts tend to develop slowly.
Cataracts can impact on your quality of life as you cannot see clearly and you start to have problems reading and driving at night.
Initially, prescription glasses and contact lenses and brighter lighting may help improve your vision, but if your cataracts continue to develop then surgery will be required. Surgery is a commonly performed and effective treatment for cataracts.
Vision changes you can expect in your 70s
Glaucoma is a group of eye disorders that lead to progressive damage to the optic nerve which connects your eye to your brain.
Glaucoma is common, mostly in adults in their 70s and 80s. Many people don't realise they have it as it doesn't always cause symptoms in the early stages. It can slowly steal your peripheral vision (the edge of your vision) and without treatment, it can eventually lead to blindness.
It occurs when fluid in your eye can’t drain away properly and this increases the pressure inside your eye and causes damage the optic nerve.
Treatment can help stop your vision getting any worse but it cannot reverse any sight loss before diagnosis. Your consultant ophthalmologist will recommend treatment depending on the type of glaucoma you have. Main treatments include: eye drops to reduce your eye pressure, laser treatment to open blocked drainage tubes in your eyes or reduce fluid production in your eyes, or surgery to enhance the drainage of fluid from your eyes.
Eye care for ageing eyes at Winfield Hospital
We work alongside highly skilled and extensively experienced consultant ophthalmologists who perform eye tests and deliver the latest techniques in the treatment of eye disorders and diseases. This includes laser eye treatment and the use of accommodative and multifocal lenses in cataract surgery to correct vision.
If you feel that your eyes are ageing and your vision is not what it used to be then make an appointment with one of our consultant ophthalmologists 01452 331111 or contact us.
Early diagnosis and intervention is recommended to help you benefit from optimal vision for your condition, and to you enjoy successful treatment.