Change is inevitable, and so is the age-related deterioration of our overall health as well as eye health. Sooner or later, one way or the other, age-related changes impact the performance of our bodily functions, including the eyes, especially as we move in our 60s.
1 out of every 3 U.S. citizens suffer from some sort of vision-impairing eye condition by
the time they are 65 years old.
Aging can result in issues like presbyopia, not so much of a threat to the eyes and more like a natural part of aging. Similarly, the probability of cataracts also increases with age, also a commonly found eye problem in seniors, and most of the cases of cataracts can be handled quite conveniently with cataract surgery.
However, there are some really serious age-related eye diseases as well, with quite a high potential to affect your vision as you continue to age. These include macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, cataracts and retinitis pigmentosa.
We have compiled a list of 10 age-related eye diseases for you to beware of, as you continue to age. These are categorized in three different ways, i.e. minor age related eye diseases, major age-related eye diseases, other age related eye diseases.
Minor Age Related Eye Diseases
As you step into your 40s, a lot of things seem to change, including your ability to focus on up-close objects. One of the major reasons behind this is the deteriorating ability of your eye’s lens to change its shape, the phenomenon being referred to as presbyopia.
For a certain period of time, you can compensate this gradual but inevitable decline in your eyes’ focusing ability by getting the reading material farther and farther away from your eyes. But there’s a limit to this, and eventually, you’ll have to resort to some viable solution like reading glasses, multifocal lenses or progressive lenses.
In fact, you can treat presbyopia with various corrective surgery options as well, such as monovision LASIK, refractive lens exchange, corneal inlays and conductive keratoplasty.
Though some consider cataracts as serious age-related eye disease, but with their widespread presence among seniors, many also suggest considering them as a normal change associated with aging.
According to estimates, over half of all population aged 65 in America may have some sort of cataracts in their eyes. This percentage increases further as the age group goes past 70s.
The good news is that recent advances in eye care industry have turned cataract surgery into one of the most successful eye surgeries with a success rate of about 98%. Moreover, there are also alternatives like ‘multifocal lens implants’ and ‘accommodating intraocular lenses’, capable of potentially restoring all ranges of vision, thus eliminating your need for reading glasses.
Major Age Related Eye Diseases
3. Macular Degeneration
Also referred as AMD (Age-related Macular Degeneration), this eye disease is known to affect the vision of highest number of seniors. According to the estimates presented by ‘NEI’ (National Eye Institute), there are in excess of 2 million US citizens currently suffering from AMD. And this number is expected to grow to 5.4 million (more than double) by 2050 due to gradually increasing population of aging Americans.
Once you go above 40, your odds of developing glaucoma grow with every passing decade, i.e. from 1% when you’re in your 40s to as high as 12% through your 80s.
5. Diabetic Retinopathy
Diabetes is an ever increasing illness, currently affecting over 10 million Americans aged 40 or above. And NEI further estimates that some degree of diabetic retinopathy is present among approximately 40% of those 10 million, with the potential to lead them to permanent vision loss.
6. Retinitis Pigmentosa
Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) is a collective name given to a group of rare, genetic disorders resulting in retinal disintegration, slowly damaging rods and cones, the photoreceptor cells found in the retina. Estimates indicate that the number of people suffering from RP in United States is over 100,000. The damaged rods and cones result in affecting the peripheral vision and central vision respectively.
Other Age Related Eye Problems
7. Receding Pupil Size
There are muscles that assist in controlling our pupil size as well as our reaction to light exposure. Overtime, they end up losing some of their strength, which leads to the pupil getting smaller in size and slowly responsive to light exposure. That’s why people in their 60s require three times more ambient light as compared to someone in their 20s to read conveniently. Similarly, seniors’ response to bright sunlight and glare is not like youngsters; for instance, when moving in to a dimly lit movie theater or restaurant on a bright sunny day. Photochromic lenses and anti-glare coating is considered helpful in such conditions.
8. Dry Eyes
Tear production of our eyes also slows down as we age, a scenario much more common for women particularly after menopause. Artificial tears can suffice in most cases of dry eyes, helping you with stinging, burning or other discomforts commonly associated with the condition.
9. Peripheral Vision Loss
Peripheral vision loss is also associated with normal aging, characterized by the gradually decreasing size of our visual field, roughly at a rate of one to three degrees with every passing decade of life. This means an estimated peripheral visual field loss anywhere between 20 to 30 degrees by the time you get to 70s and 80s.
10. Receding Color Vision
The color sensitive cells in the retina tend to decline in sensitivity with passing years, making the colors appear less bright and increasingly difficult to distinguish between. Of all colors, blue is the one that appears most faded or washed out due to receding color vision. Most of the times, there is no viable treatment for this type of age related loss of color perception. People in certain professions (like artists and electricians) are the first ones to notice their gradually dwindling ability to finely differentiate between various hues and colors. However, your fading color vision may be restored if it is because of some other underlying cause. For example, if it is due to cataracts, a cataract surgery can help restore and recover much of the loss.
Whether some minor eye problem or a major eye disease, regular eye exam remains one of the best ways to stay away from eye diseases and eye problems. This helps doctors find about any possible issue with your eyes well in time, getting more time and resources to treat it. Moreover, you should strive to improve your overall lifestyle, especially focused on optimal eye health to make sure your eyes remain healthy and functional for a long period of time.