Do Your Eyes Grow as You Age?

Your eyes change over the years. Most changes are related to vision, but there are physical changes, too.

Do Your Eyes Get Bigger as You Age?

When you’re born, your eyes are about 16.5 millimeters in diameter. That’s a bit bigger than a pea. During your first 2 years of life, they get bigger. Then during puberty, they go through another growth spurt. When you’re in your 20s, they’re fully grown at about 24 millimeters , a little larger than a peanut.

Your eyes don’t get bigger in middle age. They only grow during childhood and your teens.

But the shape of your eyes may change. If you get nearsightedness, or myopia, they may get longer. But it’s more common to develop farsightedness, or presbyopia, which usually happens in your 40s. Your eyes will lose the ability to move and focus on near objects, but they won’t change shape.

How Your Eyes Change Over the Years

Your eyes and vision are fully developed when you reach your early 20s. They usually stay the same through your 30s.

In middle age, your eyes go through changes. Most are related to how well you see. Vision problems are often the first signs of aging. Changes may happen gradually over the years.

Changes in Eye Function

Changes in your eyes as you age are more likely to be related to vision. You might notice:

Farsightedness, or presbyopia

By the time you’re in your 40s, your lenses are less flexible. That can lead to presbyopia, which makes it harder to focus on nearby objects. You might notice it when you’re reading or at the computer. You could have to hold what you’re reading farther away. Or if you wear glasses for seeing far away, you may need to take them off to see something up close more clearly.

Presbyopia is the most common eye problem in people ages 41 to 60. It usually gets worse over time. Reading glasses or bifocal lenses can correct your vision and help you see better.

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Changes with light

As you age, the lens in your eye gets denser. The amount of light that gets through to the back of your eye is smaller. So it may be harder to see in dim light.You may notice it’s hard to read a restaurant menu or a book if the lighting isn’t good. It gets worse as you age. In your 60s, you might need three times more light than you did in your 20s.

As you enter your 60s, your pupils could get smaller and the muscles that control their size may get weaker. They adjust to light and darkness more slowly, which can make it hard to go from a bright room to a dark one. You might notice objects look dimmer or dazzled when you go outside or drive at night.

Color changes, depth perception, and floaters

As you age, how you see colors could change. They may look less bright or have less contrast. Depth perception gets more challenging. You might also notice more floaters, or floating black spots. Floaters usually don’t get in the way of your vision.

Dry eyes

You have fewer mucous cells and make fewer tears as you get older. Tears keep your eye surface moist, so less fluid may lead to dry eyes.

Changes in the Way Your Eyes Look

The look of your eyes may change in middle and older age. Physical changes may include:

  • Your eyeballs sink back or bulge forward.
  • Your eyes look puffy or slightly block your side vision.
  • Your lower eyelids turn inward.
  • Your eyelids droop.
  • Your eyes look yellow or brown from exposure to elements like UV light, wind, and dust.
  • You notice changes in the pigment or hue of your eye.
  • You get a gray-white ring at the edge of your cornea from calcium and cholesterol salts.

Other Conditions

As you age, certain eye conditions become more common. They include macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, detachment of your retina, and cataracts.

See your eye doctor if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Sudden blurriness
  • Sudden loss of vision
  • Flashes of light in your vision
  • Double vision
  • Eye pain
  • Redness or swelling of your eye or your eyelid

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Tips to Keep Your Eyes Healthy

There are steps you can take at any age to keep your eyes healthy and ward off problems.

  • Get regular eye exams from an ophthalmologist or optometrist.
  • If you’re over 60, get an annual dilated eye exam to check for common eye diseases.
  • Check your glasses or contact lens prescriptions every year.
  • Wear sunglasses that protect you from ultraviolet (UV) light.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your eyes from the sun.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Eat a healthy diet full of green, leafy vegetables and fish.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • See your doctor regularly to check for conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure.
  • Keep blood pressure and diabetes in control.
  • Wear protective eye gear when you work around your house or play sports.
  • Take computer breaks to reduce eye strain. Every 20 minutes, look about 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Whitney Seltman on July 24, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Cleveland Clinic: “Common Age-Related Eye Problems.”

American Academy of Ophthalmology: “EyeSmart,” “Is it true that we are born with our eyeballs already full grown?” “Normal Vision Development in Adults Under 40.”

Merck Manual Consumer Version: “Changes in the Body With Aging,” “Effects of Aging on the Eyes.”

National Cancer Institute: “Tumor Size In Millimeters.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Presbyopia.”

Mayo Clinic: “Presbyopia.”

American Optometric Association: “Adult Vision: 41 to 60 Years of Age.”

National Institute on Aging: “Aging and Your Eyes.”

University of Utah Health: “Vision Changes as We Age: What’s Normal, What’s Not?”

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