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Eye Health Center

Your Vision in the Senior Years

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Floaters

These are usually a harmless, natural part of aging. They are shadows of vitreous, which is the gel-like substance that makes the eye round, cast on the retina.

Floaters can appear as spots, threadlike strands, or squiggly lines that drift around, even when your eye stops moving. They are most obvious when you look at something bright, like a blue sky. They are more common in people who are very nearsighted or who have had cataract surgery.

If you suddenly notice many floaters, it may mean a part of the vitreous has pulled away from the retina all at once, sometimes with a tear in the retina. If you also have a loss of side vision, and light flashes, the retina may be lifting from its normal position. This is a retinal detachment. It can cause permanent vision loss, even blindness, if not treated. Seek immediate medical attention by seeing your eye doctor. If surgery is necessary, an ophthalmologist or a “retina specialist” may be called upon.

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.

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