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Your Vision in the Senior Years

Dry Eyes

Tears moisten your eyes, lessen the risk of infection, and keep the eye surface (cornea) smooth and clear.

Sometimes your eyes don't make enough good-quality tears. This makes it hard for the eyes to stay healthy. Dry eyes can happen at any age, but are more common in people older than 65. Hormonal changes at menopause can also raise the risk of dry eyes in women. Other factors that may contribute are medications, contact lenses, and certain medical or environmental conditions such as a dry climate.  

Symptoms of dry eyes include:

  • Burning
  • Scratchy, gritty, or irritated feeling
  • Extra watering
  • Blurred vision

If dry eyes become too severe, the cornea can become damaged, impairing vision.

For mild dry eye, over-the-counter artificial tears may do the trick, along with self-care, such as increasing humidity. Prescription eye drops or other types of treatment may be best for more severe cases of dry eye. You should see your eye doctor if nonprescription drops don’t relieve your dry-eye symptoms, since dry eyes can be a symptom of other eye problems.

Other Eye Changes From Aging

These are some other changes that are common with age:

  • Pupils (the opening at the center of the eye's iris) become smaller and don't open as well as they used to.
  • Corneas become less sensitive. You may see more glare as a result.
  • Eyelids droop or become inflamed. This sometimes affects vision.
  • Peripheral vision and your ability to judge distances (depth perception) both worsen.

You can make some adjustments to deal with these changes, such as:

  • Use extra lighting and put shades on lightbulbs.
  • Choose "high color" fluorescent bulbs with a color-rendering index of 80 or above.
  • Wear glasses with anti-reflective coating.
  • Eliminate distractions when driving.  
  • Get an eye exam at least once a year.
  • Exercise regularly, don't smoke, and protect your eyes from ultraviolet rays and injury.

 

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Robert Butterwick, OD on March 07, 2013

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