Aging and Your Eyes

Aging and Your Eyes

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Provided by National Institute on Aging

Are you holding the newspaper farther away from your eyes than you used to? Join the crowd — age can bring changes that affect your eyesight. Some changes are more serious than others, but no matter what the problem, there are things you can do to protect your vision.

  1. Have your eyes checked every 1 or 2 years by an eye care professional. This can be an ophthalmologist or optometrist. He or she should put drops in your eyes to enlarge (dilate) your pupils. This is the only way to detect some eyediseases, such as diabetic retinopathy, that have no early signs or symptoms. If you wear glasses, they should be checked too.
  2. Find out if you’re at high risk for eye disease. Are you over age 65? Are you African-American and over age 40? Do you or people in your family have diabetes or eyedisease? If so, you need to have a dilated eye exam.
  3. Have regular physical exams to check for diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure. If not treated, these diseases can cause eye problems.
  4. See an eye-care professional right away if you suddenly cannot see, if everything looks dim or if you see flashes of light. Also see an eye care professional if you have eye pain, fluid coming from the eye, double vision, redness, or swelling of your eye or eyelid.
  5. Wear sunglasses that block ultraviolet (UV) radiation and a hat with a wide brim when outside.This will protect your eyes from too much sunlight, which can raise your risk of getting cataracts.

Common eye problems

  • Presbyopia (prez-bee-OH-pee-uh) is a slow loss of ability to see close objects or small print. It is a normal process that happens as you get older. Holding the newspaper at arm’s length is a sign of presbyopia. You might also get headaches or tired eyes when you read or do other close work. Reading glasses usually fix the problem.
  • Floaters are tiny specks or "cobwebs" that seem to float across your eyes. You might notice them in well-lit rooms or outdoors on a bright day. Floaters can be a normal part of aging. Sometimes they’re a sign of a more serious eye problem such as retinal detachment. If you see many new floaters and/or flashes of light see your eye care professional right away. This is considered a medical emergency.
  • Tearing (or having too many tears) can come from being sensitive to light, wind, or temperature changes. Protecting your eyes by wearing sunglasses, for example, may solve the problem. Sometimes, tearing may mean a more serious issue, such as an infection or a blocked tear duct. Your eye care professional can treat both of these conditions.
  • Eyelid problems can come from different diseases or conditions. Common eyelid problems include red and swollen eyelids, itching, tearing, being sensitive to light, and crusting of eyelashes during sleep. This condition is called blepharitis (ble-fa-RI-tis) and may be treated with warm compresses. Other less common eyelid problems, such as swelling or growths, can be treated with medicine or surgery.

Enjoy this article? Learn more at www.nia.nih.gov.

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