Your vision is at the mercy of your genetics, though many issues can be impacted by lifestyle, activity, and other external factors. There are many things that can affect your eye health or ability to see up close and far away, and there are multiple (common and uncommon) eye issues that you could experience in adulthood. Let's take a look at three common eye issues you should be aware of as you get older.
1. Blurred Vision
Many people over 40 have trouble reading small print or focusing on the up-close text. This condition is called presbyopia and impacts a third of people over 40 in the US. It can be easily treated with reading glasses, but chat with your doctor to make sure it's not a larger issue.
Presbyopia can occur in one or both eyes and is an extremely common age-related condition. This form of nearsightedness occurs due to the hardening of the lens in the eye. There are several other common reasons for blurred vision to watch out for.
Hyperopia has similar symptoms to presbyopia, but it is a different condition. Hyperopia is the term for farsightedness. Farsightedness can make it more difficult to focus on nearby objects without blurring, while objects that are further away are easier to see. This condition can also cause eye fatigue. In more severe cases of hyperopia, even distant objects can become blurry. The opposite of hyperopia is myopia. As you can probably guess, myopia is nearsightedness, one of the most common eyesight conditions. For those with myopia, objects in the distance can become very blurry to one or both eyes. This blurring of sight can cause frequent straining of the eyes, leading to fatigue and frequent headaches.
Another cause of blurred vision is a misshapen cornea. When the cornea is shaped irregularly, the light fails to hit the retina in the correct way, leading to the blurring of vision no matter how close or how far away an object is. This common eye condition is called astigmatism and is easily treatable. All of the above conditions can be managed with either prescription eyeglasses, contact lenses, or refractive surgery such as LASIK.
There are additional reasons for experiencing blurred vision that may be temporary but still worthy of discussing with your eye doctor. Chronic dry eyes and allergies are one common reason for blurred vision, both of which can benefit from eye drops. Certain medications may also cause dry eyes or blurred vision. Migraine headaches and ocular migraines can also include symptoms of blurred vision, which while disturbing, are temporary. It is also quite common to experience brief, temporary blurry vision after undergoing LASIK eye surgery. If you’re a contact lens wearer, make sure to regularly change your contacts, as overuse causes protein build-ups which result in blurred vision—as well as the risk of eye infections.
Finally, pregnancy can also be a contributing factor to blurred vision. Hormones can fluctuate, causing changes to the shape of the cornea. Some women may even experience double vision while pregnant. Dry eyes leading to blurred vision are also a frequent symptom that accompanies pregnancy. It is best to consult with your doctor to rule out any possibility of gestational diabetes in the event of pregnancy accompanied by blurred vision.
A particularly important reason to stay aware of any changes to your vision is glaucoma. Glaucoma can have devastating impacts on vision if not treated early. Glaucoma is one of the top causes of blindness occurring in people aged 60 or over. Untreated glaucoma will cause blindness in one or both eyes. Vision loss from glaucoma can't be corrected, but it can be slowed or stopped with early detection. Most forms of glaucoma have no obvious warning signs, making it imperative that you routinely visit your doctor for eye examinations.
Glaucoma is caused by increased fluid pressure in the eyes which damages the optic nerve. Your optic nerve is critical to maintaining good eyesight. A healthy eye has fluid that properly drains at an angle that protects the optic nerve. In a glaucoma patient, this liquid builds up and drains improperly. This condition is found to be genetic in some individuals, so make note of others in your family who have a history of glaucoma.
There are several additional risk factors that you can watch out for and discuss with your doctor. These risk factors include being over 60, Black, Asian, or Hispanic, or having heart disease, diabetes, sickle cell anemia, or high blood pressure. Vision-related risk factors include having high internal eye pressure, experiencing an eye injury, corneas with abnormally thin centers, extreme nearsightedness, extreme farsightedness, or using corticosteroid eye drops for a long period of time. It is also possible for infants and small children to develop glaucoma due to underlying health conditions.
To reduce your risk of developing glaucoma, be sure to receive regular, dilated eye examinations and discuss all risk factors and family health history with your eye doctor. The frequency of these exams may be ramped up as you age or if you have a family history of glaucoma. Protect your eyes when engaging in contact sports and hobbies. Moderate exercise may help reduce eye pressure, meaning a reduced risk of glaucoma. Yet another reason to dust off those sneakers!
A cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye, which leads to poor vision at night and difficulty reading. Treatment of cataracts is successful and widely available but again is best when the problem is discovered early. Similar to glaucoma, cataracts typically develop slowly over time and with little to no warning signs. Early prevention is key to minimizing any major disturbance to your eyesight.
A cataract begins as a small spot of cloudy, blurry, dimmed vision on the lens of an eye. This cloudy spot can grow over time, leading to increased difficulty with vision. Other symptoms include a sensitivity to light, glaring and halo effects around light objects, fading of colors, and double vision. The symptoms may also result in the need for brighter lights to accomplish everyday tasks, as well as too frequent eyeglasses or contact lens prescription adjustments. Cataracts are a common condition that occurs as we age over time. The lens of the eye naturally becomes thicker and less flexible as we age, while fibers and proteins in the lens break down. Too much of this can result in a clouded lens, typically occurring in both eyes. With a clouded lens, the eye is unable to pass the full amount of light to the retina, which results in blurred vision. Think of it as a dirty screen on your camera; photographs need light to come through crystal clear. So do our eyes.
There are several known risk factors for developing cataracts, including certain genetic factors. Risk factors include old age, excessive unprotected exposure to sunlight, previous eye injury, smoking, excessive drinking, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and prolonged corticosteroid medication use. Regular eye examinations are your best bet against cataracts, in addition to a healthy diet, abstaining from smoking and heavy drinking, and wearing sunglasses to help protect your peepers.
You can Address Vision Issues
Fixing vision issues is easy when you have an eye health professional on your care team from Gem State Eyes. Staying on top of your regular checkups, health issues, and lifestyle changes while checking in with your eye health professional means that you can keep your vision in check as you age.
Know Who to Contact About Eye Health
Your eye health is important, and you'll want to address vision issues before they become a problem. Reach out to the team at Gem State Eyes if you have any concerns about vision issues.