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Common Eye & Vision Changes in Seniors

May is Vision Health Month in Canada!


To start off the month, we wanted to share some common eye and vision changes that occur as we age. According to the Canadian Association of Optometrists, typically beginning in the early to mid-40s, the eyes begin to deteriorate. This deterioration can become more evident the older we get.


elderly woman trying to read prescription bottle

As we age, we may start to notice a change in our vision. It may be that you start wearing glasses to read your favourite book, or perhaps you've developed a sensitivity to light and glare. Whatever the changes may be, it's good to know the effects of ageing on vision and how we can prevent or manage serious eye diseases.


Common Eye & Vision Changes

Some vision changes that you may experience as you age are:

  • Difficulty reading small print

  • Taking longer to adjust from light to dark

  • More sensitivity to glare from sunlight

  • Loss of depth perception, which makes it difficult to judge distances

  • Difficulty in seeing contrasts and colour

  • Dry, tearing or watery eyes.


These changes may seem minor and/or temporary, but regular vision and eye care exams will help detect any problems and prevent further damage.


Other eye and vision changes may also include:


Colour - this change is not necessarily the eye colour we have, but rather the colours we see. The cells in our eyes that control how we see colour may become less sensitive as we age. This can mean that colours appear duller or less vibrant than before. It may also cause difficulty in distinguishing certain colour shades, such as green or blue.


Light - Have you ever stepped outside and been suddenly taken aback by the level of brightness or light shining in your eyes? As we age, the ability to adjust our eyes to changes in light levels becomes increasingly slower than when we were younger. Your eyes will adjust but may take longer, especially when faced with extreme level changes, such as very sunny and bright spaces or a dimly lit room like a movie theatre. Our pupils also tend to become smaller and less responsive as we age, which requires more light to see clearer.

Good lighting at home and in other spaces is key to keeping you focused and reducing the possibility of injury from vision-related falls.

Tears - As we age, our eyes produce fewer tears, which can lead to frequent dry eyes or irritation. Dry eyes may cause blurry vision, headaches, and eye fatigue. If you or someone you know experiences such symptoms, plan a visit to your local optometrist.


Functionality - As we age, the functionality of our eyes decreases, depending on various factors. The shape and flexibility of the eye or lens may begin to change, which means that street signs you were once able to see from far away are now more challenging to see. This may require prescriptive eyeglasses or correcting an existing lens prescription to prevent further strain on the eye when trying to focus on objects or reading.


Disease - Ocular diseases, such as cataracts, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration, can lead to vision impairment. A reduction in vision may greatly affect your ability to carry out daily tasks that were once easy and simple to perform. A visit to your optometrist on a regular basis is key to helping manage your eye health.


Symptoms of Vision Loss

Some signs of vision loss or deterioration may include:

  • Squinting and/or greater sensitivity to light;

  • Choosing bright over dull coloured objects or clothing;

  • Misjudging where items are/depth perception changes;

  • Difficulty buttoning a shirt;

  • Seeing flashes of light or rapid movement from the corners of your eyes;

  • Having difficulties with driving at night;

  • Experiencing uncontrolled eye movement and

  • Falling because of a missed step or an unseen object on the floor.

Serious Eye Conditions

Beyond the signs and symptoms listed above, there are serious eye diseases and conditions that can also affect your vision.


  • Cataracts - Cataracts are a gradual clouding of the natural lens of the eye, preventing light from reaching the retina. This condition may prevent you from being able to read or drive. Surgery may be required to remove the cataract and are highly successful.

  • Glaucoma - Glaucoma develops when the pressure within the eye starts to destroy the nerve fibres within the retina. If not treated early, glaucoma can cause vision loss and blindness. Treatment may include eye drops, medication, or surgery.

  • Diabetic Retinopathy - This condition appears directly linked to diabetes. Changes to the blood vessels caused by diabetes can starve the retina of oxygen. This condition can go through many stages and can result in blindness. Symptoms include cloudy vision and seeing spots. If you have diabetes, be sure to have regular eye examinations and tell your eye specialist that you are diabetic. Treatment can slow down vision loss. Laser treatment in the early stages is often successful.


Prevention

According to Health Canada, the following are some ways that you can help to prevent eye damage and improve eye health.

  • If you are over the age of 45, have your eyes examined on a regular basis.

  • Don't smoke. Smoking tobacco is a major risk factor in the early onset of age-related macular degeneration.

  • If you suffer from dry eyes (gritty, itchy, or burning), a home humidifier and eye drops may help. In a few serious cases, surgery may be needed to correct the problem.

  • If your eyes water, it may be that you are more sensitive to light, wind, or temperature change. Simply shielding your eyes or wearing sunglasses may solve the problem. However, this condition may be the result of an eye infection, eye irritation, or a blocked tear duct, all of which can be treated. See your doctor to find out the exact cause and treatment.

  • Turn on the lights. Seeing better can sometimes be as easy as changing a light bulb to one with a higher wattage. Putting 100 or 150-watt bulbs in your lamps can reduce eye strain. Just make sure the fixture is designed for that wattage. Bright light is important in stairways to help prevent falls.

  • Eat your carrots. A daily dose of the vitamins and minerals found in melons, citrus fruit, carrots, spinach, and kale may help slow the progress of age-related eye diseases such as macular degeneration, glaucoma, and cataracts.

  • Don't drive at night if you have problems with depth perception, glare, or other vision difficulties.


In conclusion, as we celebrate Vision Health Month in Canada, it is important to be aware of the common eye and vision changes that occur as we age. These changes can range from difficulty reading small print to a loss of depth perception and sensitivity to light. Regular vision and eye care exams are crucial in detecting any problems and preventing further damage.


Additionally, certain eye diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration can significantly impact our vision and daily activities. However, with proper prevention measures such as regular eye examinations, avoiding smoking, maintaining good lighting, and eating a healthy diet, we can take steps to protect our eye health.


Remember, if you experience any symptoms of vision loss or deterioration, it is important to seek professional care and guidance. By prioritizing our eye health, we can maintain optimal vision and enjoy a better quality of life.



 

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