As age sets in, noticeable differences in vision and eye health start to occur. Changes can range from seeing a change of color to a decrease in tear production. Most people will begin to experience some minor changes in vision by age 40. Two things that are not normal, however, are vision loss and blindness. While more than 80 percent of Americans surveyed value eyesight as the most valued sense, less than half do not get eye examinations as often as they should.
Many different eye problems can occur as age advances. While many think their vision is up to par, most age-related eye diseases do not show any obvious symptoms. Dilated eye examinations are the only way to detect or find these diseases which, if untreated, can have serious consequences, even complete vision loss.
Around middle age, eye lenses become less flexible, which results in having a harder time focusing on nearby objects. This condition is known as presbyopia, which is extremely common in people over the age of 40. The muscles in the body tend to decrease in strength with age, and the eye muscles are no exception. Sometimes the muscles that squeeze the eyelids shut can get weaker, as well as the muscles that work to control the size of pupils.
To help keep eyes in good shape, Barnet Dulaney Perkins Eye Center is celebrating National Healthy Aging Month with a few helpful tips to keep top of mind:
- Get eyes examined. There are a few different types of eye exams to consider. Depending on age, eye care experts recommend a dilated eye exam every one to three years. Dilated exams allow for examination of both the external eye and internal eye. If over the age of 40, it is recommended to get an eye exam every year to check for numerous potential problems. Passing age 50, patients are at risk for the increasingly common and serious disease of macular degeneration, which if left untreated can eventually destroy the part of the eye that provides clear, sharp vision.
- Look away from computer screen. Many jobs nowadays require time spent at a computer screen. Staring at a screen for long periods of time can have significant side effects, such as blurred vision, headaches, trouble focusing and more. Be sure to exercise eyes every so often, throughout the day, by looking away from the screen for a few moments every 15 minutes to rest eye muscles and adjust focus.
- Clean contact lenses correctly. Wash hands thoroughly before handling contacts. Be sure not to use soups with oils or perfumes, as they can leave film on hands, which can cause irritation to eyes if transferred on to contact lenses. Sanitize contact lenses as instructed and, when necessary, replace them.
- Avoid smoking. Smoking is not just bad for lungs, it can also be detrimental to eyesight. Smoking can lead to problems such as cataracts and optic nerve damage, as well as accelerate macular degeneration, which seriously threatens eyesight.
- Follow a well-balanced diet. Eating foods such as fish, berries and vegetables high in anti-oxidants can improve vision. Berries are loaded with lutein, which helps fight macular degeneration – one of the main causes of vision loss in the older population. Foods such as fish and walnuts are also known to lessen inflammation in and around the eye.
- Eat vegetables. Eating properly is just as important when aging occurs. Maintaining a healthy weight is another way to keep vision as good as possible. Being overweight can lead to vision loss, potentially resulting from complications related to diabetes and hypertension.
If changes in vision are becoming noticeable, consult an eye doctor right away. Always seek medical attention to determine the best form of treatment. Maintaining regular eye exams and giving a doctor a brief history of health, as well as family background, are also important steps to take.