Vision Problems in Aging Eyes

By Dr Onuoha Nwamaka

As people age, vision problems become more common. Hence, the elderly need regular eye check. Here are some common vision problems in aging eyes.

Presbyopia

Presbyopia is the inability of the eye to focus on near objects due to the loss of flexibility of the lens in the eye. If you have presbyopia, you will tend to move books, newspapers, and other materials with tiny prints away from your eyes in order to see them clearly. You may also move your head back to get a clearer image. Presbyopia usually occurs between the age of 40 and 50. It could occur earlier if you are hyperopic. As you get older, the condition gets worse but with the right lens prescription, you will be able to perform near tasks.  

Cataracts

Cataract is the clouding of the lens. It is very common in the elderly. In fact, more than half of the people over the age of 80 have a cataract or have had cataract surgery done. You can liken the lens in your eye to the lens of your camera. It helps to focus images on your retina. It is transparent and is made up of proteins and water, but as you get older the protein component starts to clump together and the lens becomes opaque leading to loss of vision. With surgery, you can regain your vision.

Glaucoma

This is a group of diseases that lead to the damage of the optic nerve head. Signs and symptoms normally do not appear until a considerable amount of vision has been lost. This is due to the fact the vision loss starts from the peripheral (side) vision.  If left untreated, glaucoma can cause severe vision loss, and ultimately blindness. The key to saving the eyesight in glaucoma is early detection. This means going for eye exams regularly especially if there is a history of glaucoma in your family.

Floaters

Sometimes, you may see images in your vision that look like spots, cobwebs, flies, or strings. These tend to move as you move your eyes especially when you look at the sky or a white surface. These are called floaters or muscae volitantes in medical terms. Floaters occur when the vitreous gel in your eyes shrink in size as you get older. It can also be a sign of some serious issues especially if you notice flashes of light (that look like lightning) at the edge of your vision. In more recent times, this condition has also been seen in the young.

Dry eye

Our tears are made up of oil, water, and mucous. These need to be in perfect balance to effectively keep the eyes moist between blinks and give us clear and comfortable vision. Dry eye is a common problem and not solely a condition of aging. It can occur with those that wear contact lenses, take certain medications, or have certain disorders like immune system disorders. Dry eyes occur when there is little or no tear. In this case, your eyes may feel dry, gritty, sandy or sore. On the other hand, you can produce tears and still experience dry eyes. This occurs when the tears produced by your eyes are of poor quality.

Diabetic eye disease

High blood sugar damages the nerves and blood vessels in our bodies. Unfortunately, signs and symptoms in the eye may not be obvious until significant damage has been done. Diabetic eye disease can lead to glaucoma, cataract, retinopathies and maculopathies. This is why it is important to keep your blood sugar at safe levels. The longer you have diabetes, the more you are prone to eye problems and the longer diabetes remains uncontrolled, the higher the risks of vision loss.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD)

The most important part of our retina is called the macula, it is responsible for giving us perfectly, sharp central vision. ARMD is the gradual breakdown of the macula. It results in the loss of central vision. Some of the risk factors for ARMD include family history, age, race, poor diet and unhealthy habits such as smoking. There are hardly any symptoms at the early stages of ARMD. As the condition worsens, you will experience blurring and blackouts in the centre of your vision. Regular eye exams are recommended to detect this condition early.