5 Issues That Affect Aging Eyes

Age, heredity, medical conditions, sun exposure and other environmental stressors can all take a toll on your eyes over time.

If you're lucky, the only vision issue you'll have as you age is adjusting to reading glasses. More serious conditions can affect your eyes, however, so it pays to see your eye doctor on a regular basis.

If you haven't been to an ophthalmologist lately, make an appointment now. Many age-related vision problems can be prevented or successfully treated if you take care of them early and follow your eye doctor's advice.

Here are five common conditions that affect your eyesight:

1. Cataracts

Cataracts are cloudy areas that form in the lens of your eyes. They start small and sometimes stay small enough that they don't cause any problems. But some cataracts continue to grow and thicken until the clouding becomes obvious and you lose some of your sight. Cataracts can be surgically removed and the procedure is usually quite successful.

Hazy vision, sensitivity to light and glare, seeing halos around light, and experiencing difficulty distinguishing between colors, are all warning signs of cataract development. If you experience any of these symptoms, see your eye doctor as soon as possible.

2. Diabetic Retinopathy

If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you are susceptible to damage in your retina that could ultimately cause you to lose your vision. The best way to help prevent diabetic retinopathy is to keep your blood sugar under careful control and see your eye doctor at least once a year. Even if you don't need treatment, you will need to have your eyes monitored over time.

3. Glaucoma

Glaucoma refers to several different eye diseases that can affect the optic nerve. The warning signs of glaucoma include difficulty driving at night, loss of peripheral vision, cloudy vision, and seeing rainbow-colored halos around lights. Older adults, African-Americans, anyone taking steroid medication, and those with a family history of glaucoma are all at risk of developing this serious disease. Left untreated, glaucoma can lead to partial vision loss or even blindness. Your eye doctor can perform a series of specific tests to diagnose or rule out glaucoma.

4. Macular Degeneration

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of vision loss after age 60, according to Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. AMD affects vision in the center of your eye, so while it does not usually cause blindness, it makes everyday activities difficult to impossible. The older you get, the higher your risk of developing AMD. Smoking, family history, obesity, and high cholesterol are some of the other risk factors associated with AMD.

There are two types of AMD: wet and dry. And the treatment prescribed beyond lifestyle changes depends on the form. AMD can sometimes be treated with laser surgery.

5. Retinal Detachment

Floaters, which are floating spots or thread-like images that appear in your frame of vision and might make you think you just saw a bug fly by, are a sign that the gel-like substance that fills most of your eye is starting to shrink. Floaters in and of themselves are not cause for alarm, and in many cases are simply a normal part of aging.  But if you suddenly see an increased number of floaters, which may or may not be accompanied by flashes of light and loss of side vision, call your doctor immediately. This may be a sign of retinal detachment, which is considered a medical emergency. Retinal detachment must be treated immediately or you could permanently lose your eyesight.




National Eye Institute

Ohio State Wexner Medical Center: Age-Related Macular Degeneration

U.S. National Library of Medicine: Glaucoma