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Age-Related Vision Problems

Cataracts

With a cataract, the lens of the eye becomes cloudy and your vision gets blurry. They're often associated with aging. Half of all Americans have them by the time they reach 80.  

Symptoms of a cataract often develop slowly and can include:

  • Blurry, cloudy, or dim vision -- a little like looking through a dirty windshield
  • Double vision with one eye
  • Trouble seeing at night or in dim light
  • Halos around lights
  • Sensitivity to light and glare
  • Faded or yellow colors, or trouble telling the difference between blues and greens
  • Trouble seeing an object against a background of the same color

It's not clear what causes cataracts, though they become more likely as you age. These factors may also raise your risk:

  • Lots of exposure to sunlight
  • Smoking
  • High cholesterol or high blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Previous eye injury or surgery
  • Family history of cataracts

At earlier stages, simply changing your eyeglass or contacts prescription is all you need. Using brighter lights for reading or a magnifying glass may also help. 

If halos or glare are problems, limit night driving. Glare can also happen during the day, so make sure your vision prescription is up to date, and ask if special tinting could lessen glare.

If a cataract begins to interfere with your day-to-day life, an ophthalmologist specializing in cataract surgery can remove the cloudy lens and replace it with a clear lens implant.

 

Other Retinal Diseases

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of uncontrolled diabetes. It happens when blood vessels leak. You may have blurred vision and trouble reading, among other symptoms.

Laser treatment can "zap" leakage in early stages of the disease, sometimes preventing more serious complications. But the best way to protect vision is to monitor and maintain normal blood sugar levels.

Retinal vessel occlusion is a common complication of diabetes or glaucoma. It happens when a vein in the retina becomes blocked. It's also more likely if you have high blood pressure or narrowing of the arteries.

Depending upon the type of blockage you have, you may have subtle, painless, moderate vision loss that comes and goes. Or you may have sudden, severe vision loss and pain that requires immediate medical care.

Management includes close observation and treatment of any complications. 

 

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Robert Butterwick, OD on April 16, 2014

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