Opthalmologist, Dr. John Kulze discusses the changes you can expect from your eyes as you age.
It happens all of the time. A person goes through life with near 20/20 vision and then suddenly everything changes. “People often say it seems to happen overnight, as soon as they enter their 40s,” says ophthalmologist Dr. John Kulze with Roper St. Francis Eye Center. And, while we can all anticipate some changes in our eyes as we age, Dr. Kulze emphasizes there are things you can do to prevent certain diseases.
Eyes at 40
Do you find yourself holding reading materials further and further away for your eyes to focus? Or does it suddenly seem like the fonts on those medicine bottles are especially tiny? Well you’re not alone. According to Dr. Kulze, a significant number of people over age 40 experience this condition called presbyopia.
Presbyopia is caused when the lens inside your eye thickens and loses flexibility. A quick solution is to stop by your local drugstore and pick up a pair of reading or “cheater” glasses, which will magnify reading materials or any close-up work you may be doing such as sewing. It’s also a good idea at this time to visit an ophthalmologist for a complete eye exam to ensure you don’t need prescription eye glasses.
And finally, if you need another reason to quit smoking consider your eye health. Smoking is a leading cause of vision loss from cataracts and macular degeneration. Smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke also causes dry eyes.
Eyes During Your 50s
Once you hit your 50s Dr. Kulze warns that several other issues can begin to affect your eyes. “In your late 40s and into your early 50s your chances for glaucoma and macular degeneration increases.”
Glaucoma occurs when fluid builds up in the front part of your eye increasing the pressure and damaging the optic nerve. Many times there are no symptoms associated with glaucoma until serious damage has been done. Because of this, be sure to schedule a yearly check-up with your ophthalmologist beginning in your 50s.
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in the U.S. and affects more people than cataracts and glaucoma combined. Macular degeneration occurs when the central portion of the retina deteriorates. This part of your retina, known as the macula, focuses your vision and allows you to read, drive and see fine detail.
As you reach your late 50s, you may also begin to notice your eyes are dryer. Dry eyes can be a side effect of certain diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or from drugs including antihistamines. But, the number one reason is the natural aging process, especially among women who have gone through menopause. There are a number of treatment options for dry eyes, including over the counter drops, so be sure to speak with your doctor.
Eyes at 60 and Beyond
By the time you have reached your 60s you may experience vision changes that can affect your daily routines such as driving. “Conditions such as dim light/night vision impairment, narrowing of the visual fields, decreased color vision and floaters (vitreous detachment) are all fairly common for those age 60 and beyond. If you are experiencing these symptoms you should meet with your ophthalmologist,” says Dr. Kulze.
In your 60s your risk for cataracts also increases. A cataract is the clouding of your eyes lens. People with cataracts liken it to looking through a fogged up windshield. Usually cataracts develop slowly and may respond to mild treatments such as eyeglasses. But, if the cataract worsens and begins to interfere with your daily activities you may consider surgery to remove the natural lens and replace it with an intra-ocular implant.
To reduce your risk for cataracts and other degenerative eye diseases protect your eyes from the sun by wearing a hat and UVA/UVB sunglasses, eat a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, quit smoking and be sure to schedule your yearly eye exam.