As we age, it’s common to have changes in our vision. While some vision changes are an expected part of the aging process other changes may be a sign of something more serious. The American Academy of Ophthalmology provided a list of common visual changes adults might experience as they age and their potential underlying causes and treatments available. As always, if you have concerns, talk to your ophthalmologist.
Hazy central vision could be a sign of age-related macular degeneration. Photo courtesy of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
This condition is called presbyopia. Nearly all adults experience this starting around age 40, as our eyes age and our lenses become less flexible, making it harder to read at close range. The most common treatment is to use reading glasses.
Burning, stinging or watering eyes
These can all be a sign of dry eye syndrome, which is very common as people age, especially in women undergoing hormonal changes. For most people, over-the-counter lubricating eye drops provide sufficient relief. If these do not relieve symptoms, your ophthalmologist may prescribe medication or suggest other treatments.
Seeing floaters or flashes of light
“Floaters” or “clouds” are caused by tiny clumps of protein floating in the vitreous gel (the fluid inside the eye). The vitreous gel can also pull at the retina as it moves causing a person to see what looks like flashes of light. Both floaters and flashes become more common as we age, but a sudden increase in floaters or the sudden appearance of flashes could be a sign of a torn retina and should be evaluated by an ophthalmologist immediately. In this case, surgery may be necessary.
Muted colors or halos around lights
These can be a sign of cataracts, or a clouding of the eye’s lens. Nearly everyone develops cataracts as they age. Surgery is usually required to treat cataracts and has been shown to significantly improve vision. Cataract surgery is one of the more common elective surgeries performed in the United States.
Hazy central vision
If your central vision is hazy, making it difficult to recognize faces, you may have age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Because symptoms of AMD are usually not noticeable until vision loss has already occurred, routine eye exams are critical to preventing early vision loss. AMD has two forms – wet and dry. Treatment for wet AMD includes injections of a drug that blocks the growth of abnormal blood vessels. At this time, dry AMD has no proven treatment.
Deteriorating peripheral vision
If you are having trouble seeing in your peripheral vision, you may be experiencing signs of glaucoma. Vision loss from glaucoma is so gradual that many people don’t even notice it until their sight has been significantly affected. Early intervention is key in preventing vision loss from glaucoma, especially in those with certain risk factors such as African or Hispanic ancestry, or those with migraines, diabetes or low blood pressure. The most common treatment for glaucoma is medicated eye drops.
For more information, visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s website.