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Adult Vision: Over 40

If you’re over 40, you have probably noticed some changes in your vision. It is during this time when changes in your eyes can begin to affect your work and enjoyment in life. Most notably, adults between the ages of 40 to 60 may start to experience difficulty seeing clearly at close distances, particularly for reading and computer-related tasks. This normal age-related change in the eye’s focusing ability, also called presbyopia, can continue to progress with age.

If you’ve enjoyed relatively good vision throughout your life without eyeglasses or contact lenses to correct your vision, then the development of near vision problems after 40 can be a frustrating and concerning experience. While the loss of the ability to read the newspaper or see cell phone numbers may have appeared to occur suddenly; these changes have actually been occurring gradually since childhood. Up until this point, your eyes have had adequate focusing power to allow you to see clearly at close distances. Now, your eyes no longer have the same focusing power to maintain clear and comfortable vision.

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Along with the onset of presbyopia, an increase of eye health issues often occur during these years. Whether or not there is a need for eyeglasses, adults are recommended to complete their comprehensive medical eye examinations at least once every two years to check for signs of developing eye and vision problems.

Adults over 40 are at a higher risk of developing eye and vision problems if any of the following exist:

  • Chronic, systemic conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes
  • Prolonged exposure in an eye-hazardous work environment
  • Work in a visually demanding job
  • Family history of glaucoma or macular degeneration
  • Health conditions such as high cholesterol, anxiety, depression, thyroid conditions, or arthritis that require medications. Many medications, including antihistamines, have ocular side-effects

Understanding Age-related Vision Changes

Just like your body, your eyes can change over time. Aging changes in various parts of the eye can result in a number of noticeable differences in your vision. While not everyone will experience the same degree of symptoms, the following are common age-related vision changes:

  • Difficulty Reading and Doing Close Work
    Words and text on printed material are not clear as before, in part because the lens inside your eye has become less flexible. As a result, it is more difficult for your eyes to focus near objects with the same focusing ability as it once did when you were younger.
  • Need for More Light
    As your age, your ability to see as well in dimly lit areas declines. Brighter lights in your work area will help make reading and other near vision tasks easier.
  • Changes in Color Perception
    The normally clear lens located inside your eye may begin to discolor making it harder to see and distinguish between certain shades of color.
  • Problems with Glare
    You may notice more glare from the sun reflecting off of glass or headlights at night, making it more difficult to drive. Changes within the lens in your eye can cause light entering the eye to be scattered rather than focused precisely on the retina, resulting in additional glare.
  • Reduced Tear Production
    With age, the tear glands in your eyes will produce fewer tears which may cause your eyes to feel dry and irritated. This is particularly true for women after menopause. Having an adequate amount of tears is an essential part of maintaining healthy, lubricated eyes and preserving clear sight.

    Warning Signs of Eye Health Problems

    Between the ages of 40 to 60 is also the time in your life when the risk for developing a number of vision problems increases. If you experience any of the following symptoms, you may have the early warning signs of a serious eye health problem:

  • Loss of Peripheral Vision
    If you are losing peripheral or side vision, it may be an early sign of glaucoma. Glaucoma occurs when the optic nerve is damaged and no longer transmits visual images to the brain. Often, there are no symptoms until damage to section of your vision has already occurred.
  • Distorted Images
    If straight lines appear distorted or there appear to be a blind spot in the center of your vision, you may have signs of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This disease affects the macula, the part of your retina that is responsible for central vision where the eye’s acuity is sharpest. As a result, the disease causes a blind spot right in the middle of your field of vision.
  • Fluctuating Vision
    Frequent changes in the clarity of your vision may be a sign of diabetes or hypertension (high blood pressure). These chronic conditions can damage the tiny blood vessels in the retina—the light sensitive layer at the back of your eye—causing vision loss that can sometimes be permanent.
  • Floaters and Flashes
    It is normal to occasionally see spots or floaters in your eyes. These are actually shadowy images of particles floating in the fluid that fills the inside of your eyes. It is a natural part of the eye’s aging process. Although they can be troublesome, spots and floaters are typically harmless and usually do not risk vision.However, if you suddenly notice more floaters than usual, and they are accompanied by bright, flashing lights; it may be a warning sign of impending retinal detachment—a tear of the retina. This should be treated immediately to prevent serious loss of vision.

Regular comprehensive eye examinations is imperative in early diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases to help preserve good vision throughout life. As always, feel free to contact Dr. McMasters at Dogwood Vision Care and schedule your appointment with us today for help with your eye care needs!