Age-related vision changes happen to many people as they grow older. But eye problems aren't something you should simply write off as normal. Some result from new or worsening vision disorders. As you get older, these might happen gradually. Others happen suddenly, quickly causing blindness. That is why regular eye exams with an eye doctor are so important.
You can take steps to lower your risk of age-related vision problems. If you have one, you can slow their progression.
Presbyopia – the inability to focus on close objects like you used to -- is one of the most common vision problems in middle age. That’s because the lens of your eye is less flexible and you may not be able to see as clearly as you used to.
If you are having a hard time reading schedule an eye exam. Your doctor may have several recommendations:
- Reading glasses. These are available with or without a prescription. You can use them for close-up viewing like reading book or menu.
- Bifocals. These correct close-up and distant focus issues.
- Progressive lenses or trifocals are lenses that can help you see both near and far.
- Contact lenses. These can help correct presbyopia without the need for reading glasses. You have several choices, including bifocal contacts.
- Multifocal contact lenses. These allow you to see near, far, and everywhere in between.
Some doctors suggest wearing a contact for near vision in one eye and for distance vision in the other eye. Laser surgery may also be an option.
Cataracts cloud your vision. Though they're not a normal part of aging, cataracts are common. Nearly 3 out of 4 people have cataracts by age 75.
Signs 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
- Difficulty 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
- High cholesterol or high blood pressure
- 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 glares are a problem, limit night driving. Glares 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 can remove the cataract with a simple surgery. This involves removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with a clear lens implant.