Do you want healthy eyes? What to Know at Age 40 and Beyond – Harvard Health Blog


Did the print on that poster suddenly shrink? If you are in your forties or later, you may have asked yourself this question while you were struggling to read something you used to be able to see clearly without any problem.

Blame the aging of your eyes. Like the joints, our eyes undergo age-related changes. While eye problems can affect people of any age, some conditions become more common after the age of 40.

get old? Three common cases of the eye

Presbyopia. The lens of the eye becomes stiffer with age, making it difficult to focus on close objects – hence struggling to read the label. Many people are satisfied with the inexpensive reading glasses, but once you need them, it is time to take a midlife vision check.

eye lens darkening. Another common condition that can appear as you get older is cataracts, which is a clouding of the lens in your eye that can impair vision. Cataracts affect about half of people between the ages of 65 and 74. Treatment usually includes an outpatient surgical procedure to replace the cloudy lens.

Dry eye syndrome. The condition affects more than 15 million adults in the United States and is caused by reduced tear production. With less natural hydration your eyes can become irritated or sticky, or you may feel a burning or itchy eye. Depending on their severity, symptoms may be treated with eye drops that mimic natural tears, a topical medication, or a device to increase tear production.

Additional eye conditions that may occur with age or disease

Posterior vitreous detachment (PVD). Signs of this condition include visual disturbances, such as seeing streaks of light, floaters, or cobweb-like haze. This happens because the gel-like substance called the vitreous in the eye begins to liquefy and contract, causing the retina to tighten.

Contact your medical team immediately if you notice these signs. While most people with PVD do not need treatment, in some cases the vitreous can completely detach from the retina or cause it to rupture. A tear or detachment can cause vision loss and require a laser procedure or surgery to fix the problem, according to the American Association of Retina Specialists.

Glaucoma. Another condition that becomes more common after the age of 40 is glaucoma. This painless and often asymptomatic condition damages the optic nerve, which carries information from your eyes to your brain. When left untreated, glaucoma can lead to loss of peripheral or central vision. Most of the time, glaucoma is treated with prescribed eye drops to reduce pressure in your eye. Less commonly, your doctor may recommend a laser procedure or surgery.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This condition causes degeneration of the retina, which is the thin layer of tissue at the back of the eye. The photosensitive cells in the retina capture images and transmit them to the brain via the optic nerve. AMD affects a central part of the retina called the macula. It can lead to blurry or distorted vision, and possibly a blind spot in a person’s field of vision. Treatment, which may include medications or laser therapy, often helps prevent or at least delay vision loss.

Diabetic Retinopathy. This condition also causes damage to the retina. For people with diabetes, keeping blood sugar and blood pressure under control helps prevent diabetic retinopathy. If detected, your ophthalmologist will recommend treatment, usually eye injections or laser therapy.

Easy ways to maintain eye health

Many eye conditions can be effectively treated to protect your vision if caught early. This is why it is wise to have regular eye exams, to detect and treat potential problems before they affect your eyesight.

You can also take other steps to ensure your eyes remain healthy, such as exercising, eating a healthy diet, quitting smoking, and protecting your eyes from UV rays by wearing sunglasses outside.


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