The Eyes Have It: Six Vision Changes That Come With Aging

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At some point in our lives it happens to all of us: Our arms stretch out further as we read the paper; we complain about labels being printed smaller and smaller every year; and, we begin to drop activities that once were enjoyable, but now seem more trouble than they are worth. The problem is our aging eyes and change in vision.

For some of us it is literally so gradual that we didn’t see it coming. That’s the good news because it is a normal part of aging and can usually be treated. The bad news is when change is abrupt and we go into denial and/or fail to seek immediate medical attention.
In the September/October issue of AARP The Magazine, health journalist Jennifer Nelson lists the six ways our vision changes as we age and what we can do about it. Here is a summary of the six changes to help you keep your eye on your eyeballs.

Vision Change #1: Small print appears fuzzy

As you age it’s not just your body that becomes less flexible, but your eye’s lenses as well. What this means is that your lenses face difficulty in changing their shape to adjust their focal point when you try to focus on objects that are close up.

Remedies for this problem include reading glasses or bifocals, bi- and multi-focal contact lenses or being fitted with contact lenses that are corrected for close-up vision with one eye and distance with the other.

If your vision change is abrupt it may indicate that something serious like maculardegeneration may be occurring. If so, see your ophthalmologist immediately for an evaluation.

Vision Change #2: Fading colors

Have you noticed that your world is taking on a sepia tone like a faded photograph from one of those instant-picture cameras of yesteryear? It could be that you are beginning to develop cataracts that cloud your perception of colors, giving objects a more brownish or yellowish hue.

The remedy for this condition is cataract surgery. However, if surgery is not an immediate option, then wearing yellow-tinted glasses can brighten your world until surgery is possible.

Cataracts left untreated will eventually lead to blindness; therefore, it is imperative to see your doctor before you can no longer SEE your doctor.

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Vision Change #3: Dry Eyes—with and without tears

As you age, your tears begin to lose their ability to properly lubricate your eyes. One reason for this is that tears consist of three layers: fat, protein and water. If any of the three layers are decreased or missing, the result is tear fluid that cannot adequately lubricate your eyes. Reasons for loss of any of the layers can be due to medications, menopause, exposure to overly dry air or wind, and disease. Remedies for dry eyes include over-the-counter or prescription artificial tears, medication changes or plugs inserted in the tear ducts to cause tears to drain more slowly.

If your eyes go dry suddenly, you may be experiencing a damaged or blocked tear duct caused by an infection, a tumor, scarring or trauma to the eye. Again, see your doctor to evaluate your eyes if this happens.

Vision Change #4: Nearly blind as a bat while driving at night

Whether you are nearsighted, farsighted or astigmatic, your corneas have an irregular curve to themthat can cause you to see a glare or halos around oncoming headlights and traffic signals.

A remedy for this is generally as simple as getting a new prescription. However, a posterior subcapsular cataract can cause this type of vision problem and is typically seen in patients with diabetes, on steroids or have experienced trauma to an eye. Your doctor can determine whether you meet these medical causes for poor night vision.

Vision Change #5: Those annoying floaters—won’t they ever sink!

If you’ve ever seen a tiny thread or spot move across your vision like a translucent 3-D object that runs toward your periphery as you try to focus on it, then you have just seen a floater. Floaters are shadows of bits of protein in the jelly of your eye.
Floaters for the most part are innocuous and do not require medical attention. However, if an excess of floaters makes an appearance it could mean that you are developing a retinal tear or detachment. Immediate treatment is needed to prevent blindness if this happens.

Vision change #6: Peripheral vision is gone…forever

Optic nerve damage from glaucoma is insidious in that there are no warning symptoms except for the loss of being able to see from your periphery. There are no remedies for this; once the nerve fibers die from the disease it is permanent. However, treatment via medication or surgery can prevent the loss of additional optic nerves. The important thing to remember is that regular screening for glaucoma during an eye exam can lead to early detection and early treatment.

Source:AARP The Magazine, Sept. /Oct. 2011, Jennifer Nelson

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