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Slideshow: How Your Vision Changes as You Age

What Your Baby Sees

At birth, infants are very sensitive to light but cannot focus on objects or see colors very well. Their vision continues to develop during the first few months. By 1 month, they can focus on objects up to 3 feet away. By 4 months, they can see across a room. Also around 4 months, they can see a full range of colors and shades.

First Eye Exams

A pediatrician may check a child's vision during routine exams in the first year of life. Some experts recommend a vision test with an eye doctor at 6 months and a complete eye exam at age 3. Vision problems like nearsightedness or lazy eye may be apparent by that age. An early vision exam may include tests for visual sharpness and overall eye health.

Does Your Child Need Glasses?

Nearly 1 in 4 school-age children has vision problems, most commonly nearsightedness. However, only about one-third of students get eye exams before starting school. Some experts recommend an eye exam before starting first grade, and then every two years. Because eyes develop as a child grows, nearsightedness typically gets worse until about age 20.

What Is "Lazy Eye"?

Amblyopia or "lazy eye" (shown) affects 2 to 3 of every 100 children. It happens when nerve signals between the brain and one eye do not work properly. Most children can be treated with a patch over the stronger eye or with other methods. Crossed eyes happen when both eyes do not line up. Patching, special glasses, or surgery can help.

Computers and Eye Strain

Staring at computer monitors, smartphones, and video game screens may result in eye strain, dryness, and fatigue. Luckily, using them does not seem to have permanent effects on the eyes. To prevent eye strain, adjust the computer monitor so that it's 2 feet in front of you. Use desk lighting to reduce glare. Take a break every two hours. Spend a few minutes looking at something much farther away than the monitor.

Adults, Protect Your Eyes!

Healthy adults younger than 40 usually have stable vision. To maintain your vision and overall eye health, wear sunglasses that have UV protection. Wear protective gear when playing sports or working with power tools, machinery, or chemicals -- both at work and at home.

Oh, No! It's Time for "Readers"

The need for reading glasses is a classic sign of middle age. By the time you reach your mid-40s, you may need help reading and performing other close-up tasks. This vision change is called presbyopia, and it's normal. You can wear reading glasses, bifocals, or special contact lenses to correct your vision. Sometimes laser surgery can help, too.

What Happens in Presbyopia

Before the age of 40, the natural lens of the eye is very flexible. This flexibility helps the lens focus on objects that are close up or far away. But as we get older, the lens tends to lose its flexibility. Gradually this lowers the ability to see up-close objects. If you have presbyopia, you might have to hold an object like a book or a menu farther away to see it clearly.

Age-Related Diseases and Vision

Some diseases, like diabetes and high blood pressure, can affect vision and eye health. Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness in adults. People with diabetes may develop retinopathy (shown, damage to blood vessels in the retina). High blood pressure can damage the eye's blood vessels and nerves. It can cause permanent vision loss. When you take care of your overall health by eating well and not smoking, your eyes (and the rest of your body) benefit.

Cataracts and Glaucoma

Cataracts (shown) and glaucoma can happen at any age, but they most often happen in people over 60. A cataract is a clouding of the eye's lens. It can easily be removed and replaced by a special lens during surgery. Glaucoma is a deterioration of the eye's nerve over time. It is often accompanied by increased pressure in the eye. Glaucoma is treated with eyedrops or surgery to decrease eye pressure.

Slowing Down Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is more common in people over 60. It can cause a partial loss of vision. "Wet" AMD happens when new, unwanted, leaky blood vessels grow in the eye. It can be treated with medicine. "Dry" AMD is a slower process and does not have a specific treatment. But certain doses of vitamin and minerals may slow or stop it. Ask your doctor about that. Vision rehabilitation may help you adjust to life with AMD.

Nutrition and Vision

A healthy diet can help maintain your eye health. And some foods may be especially good for eyes, too. Lutein, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins C and E may promote eye health. So eat citrus fruits like oranges and tangerines, green, leafy vegetables, nuts, and fatty fish. Eating fish and green, leafy vegetables may prevent age-related macular degeneration, too.

Healthy Vision for All Ages

Reviewed by Robert Butterwick, OD on March 07, 2013

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