As we reach the age of 40, many will find that their vision is changing. If you never needed glasses, you may find that you now need glasses for reading for example. This is a normal part of aging and will not keep you from enjoying life as you did when you were younger. What you have to watch out for, however, is that you also have a higher risk of developing age-related eye diseases and conditions.
Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
Macular Degeneration refers to the deterioration of part of the retina called the macula. The macula is a small spot near the center of the retina, which is the region of keenest vision.
This area is crucial for sharp, central vision, letting us see objects straight ahead of us. Central vision is needed for seeing objects clearly and for common daily tasks such as reading and driving.
According to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation, macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss, affecting more than 10 million Americans – more than cataracts and glaucoma combined.
It mainly affects people age 50 and older, so the is disease associated with aging.
AMD advances so slowly in some people that deterioration of their vision takes a long time. However, macular degeneration may progress faster in others and lead to a vision loss in one eye – or both eyes.
As AMD progresses, a common symptom is a blurred area near the center of vision. The blurred area may grow over time or blank spots can develop in your central vision. Also, objects may not look as bright as they used to.
By itself, age-related macular degeneration doesn’t result in complete blindness. However, the loss of central vision can make simple everyday activities difficult or impossible, such as the ability to drive, read and write see faces, or activities such as fixing things around the house or cooking.
Diabetic Eye Disease
Diabetes results in elevated levels of blood sugar that can damage the eyes and cause severe vision loss or even blindness. Severe cases of diabetic eye disease develop most commonly in those who have had diabetes for many years and have had poor control of their blood sugar.
Diabetic Retinopathy is the most common problem and a leading cause of blindness. This disease progressively damages the tiny blood vessels inside the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. Without a healthy retina, you will not see clearly. This disease can develop in people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
Diabetic eye diseases also include glaucoma, cataracts, and retinal detachment. Learn more.
Glaucoma is an increase in fluid pressure inside the eye that damages the eye’s optic nerve resulting in vision loss and even blindness. It is one of the primary causes of blindness in the USA.
A tendency to glaucoma can be inherited and may not show up until later in life. The risk increases with age. Usually, there are no initial symptoms, but as a person gets older and the disease progresses, vision will gradually fail. If you are over 40 and have a family history of glaucoma, you should get a complete eye exam every 1 to 2 years.
Diabetes increases the risk of developing glaucoma. When blood vessels in the retina are damaged by diabetic retinopathy, a condition called Neovascular glaucoma occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow on the iris closing off the fluid flow raising eye pressure.
A cataract is a mass of protein that clouds the natural lens in the eye making it hard to see. Symptoms may include glare from bright lights, cloudy/fuzzy vision, poor night vision or double vision in one eye.
Although you don’t have to be a senior citizen, age is a major risk factor for cataracts. It is after age 60 that most cataracts cloud a person’s vision. By the age of 80, half of all Americans have a cataract or have had cataract surgery. People with diabetes are 60% more likely to develop cataracts.
Most cataracts develop slowly and aren’t noticed, but with time will eventually interfere with your vision. A cataract can be removed in many cases and is one of the most common operations performed in the United States. It also is one of the safest and most effective types of surgery.
Dry eye is a common and often chronic condition, particularly in older adults, in which they don’t produce tears or their tears are of a poor quality. Tears are necessary to lubricate the eye, for maintaining the health of the eye and for clear vision.
This condition if not treated can result in pain, ulcers or scars on the cornea and some loss of vision. Dry eyes are a part of the natural aging process. Most people over age 65 experience some symptoms of dry eyes. Dry eyes can be diagnosed with a comprehensive eye examination.
Low vision refers to a visual impairment that makes everyday tasks difficult and is not correctable by surgery, medicine, glasses or contact lenses. Characterized by partial sight, such as blurred vision, blind spots or tunnel vision, it also includes legal blindness. People of all ages can have low vision can, but is mainly associated with older adults.
Get a Dilated Eye Exam
If you are 60 or above, you should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam, even if you aren’t experiencing any vision problems. The age-related eye diseases and conditions discussed here may not have noticeable symptoms or warning signs in their early stages. A dilated eye exam can spot problems before a loss of vision occurs.
If you have diabetes you should have this exam no matter what age at least once a year. Africa Americans should start having dilated eye exams at 40 years due to a higher risk of glaucoma.
Your best defense against eye disease is to have regular checkups. Please schedule an appointment for a comprehensive dilated eye exam with your eye doctor. Early detection and treatment can help save your sight.