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Your Vision in the Senior Years

It's normal for vision to change as you get older. With good eye care, you can often limit the impact those changes have on your daily life. You might just need new glasses, contact lenses, or better lighting.

Common age-related vision changes include:

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Presbyopia

Your eyes start having trouble focusing on objects close up. Doctors call that presbyopia.

Symptoms include:

  • Trouble reading small print
  • Headaches
  • Eye strain

What causes presbyopia? Over time, the lens of the eye hardens. Muscles around the lens also change with age. These changes make it harder for the lens to work.

An eye doctor can diagnose presbyopia and correct it with contact lenses or eyeglasses. Bifocals are glasses with the higher focusing power in the lower part of the lens. If you do not need glasses for distance, you may need only reading glasses.

Or, your doctor may suggest contact lenses, which can correct your vision and the need for glasses. Even if you can see far off, contacts can help your close vision. Options include bifocal contacts or monovision, in which you wear one contact to see close up and one contact to see far away.

Multifocal contact lenses allow you to see near, far, and everywhere in between.

Rarely, surgery is used to correct presbyopia, although the FDA has given approval to a device called the Kamra Inlay which can be surgically placed in one eye of a patient with presbyopia to help improve near vision.

Cataracts

Cataracts cloud vision. They are often associated with aging. Half of all Americans have cataracts by the time they reach 80.

Symptoms of a cataract may include:

  • Blurry, cloudy, or dim vision
  • 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

At earlier stages, simply changing your eyeglass or contact lens prescription is all you need. Using brighter lights for reading or a magnifying glass may also help. If halos or glare are a problem, limit night driving. Sunglasses and tinted lenses can improve driving comfort during the day. See your eye doctor for any concerns you have.

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.

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