Over time, the lens of the eye gradually grows thicker and less flexible, while the muscles surrounding it become weaker and less responsive. Eventually, by the time a person is in their early to mid forties, the lens can start to lose its ability to bend enough to bring close objects into focus. As a result, people begin to experience difficulty reading fine print or headaches and eye strain as the muscles in their eyes struggle to compensate for their deteriorating vision. This condition, known as presbyopia, is a relatively common change in the eye’s focusing ability that continues to progress over time but which can be treated with prescription eyeglasses (including single vision reading glasses and multifocal lenses), contact lenses, and (in some cases) laser and refractive surgery procedures.
Along with the onset of presbyopia, people over forty also begin to see an increase in the incidence of other eye-related health problems. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may have the early warning signs of a serious eye health problem:
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) can cause straight lines to appear distorted or wavy or create what appears to be a blind spot or empty area in the center of your vision. As this condition progresses, small, yellow deposits, called drusen, form on the macula at the back of the eye, the central part of the retina with the greatest concentration of the most sensitive optical cells. As the central part of the retina begins to deteriorate, a blind spot starts to form in the middle of the field of vision. The brain compensates for the loss of visual data by filling in the gaps, causing the distortion in vision. The progression of age-related macular degeneration can be slowed in many patients with a combination of regular exercise and a healthy diet high in green, leafy vegetables and fish.
Dim, Cloudy or Discolored Vision
In a healthy eye, the lens is clear, like a camera lens, and light has no difficulty passing through it to the back of the eye where images are processed. But if cataracts have started to form, the lens can become cloudy or discolored, making the world appear dim and hazy. Light entering the eye can be scattered rather than focused precisely on the retina, creating more glare or the discoloration of the lens may make it more difficult to distinguish between certain shades and colors. Small cataracts may have only a negligible effect on vision, but larger ones may require laser cataract surgery to correct.
Frequent changes in how clearly you can see may be a sign of a condition called retinopathy, a chronic condition that damages the tiny blood vessels in the retina. Retinopathy is most frequently the result of a serious health condition, like diabetes or hypertension (high blood pressure). Although it cannot be cured, there are numerous treatments available that can slow its progression. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle by controlling blood sugar levels, dieting and regularly exercising can help control the progression of the disease and reduce long-term, irreversible damage to your eyes.
Loss of Side Vision
If it seems that you are losing peripheral or side vision, this may be a sign of glaucoma, a serious eye condition affecting over 60 million people worldwide. Glaucoma occurs when the fluid inside the eye fails to drain properly, causing an increase in ocular pressure that can damage the optic nerve. Glaucoma frequently has no symptoms until damage to sections of your vision has already begun, so prompt treatment is the best way to prevent further loss of vision.
As you get older, it is extremely important to visit an eye care professional for a comprehensive dilated eye exam regularly. Early detection and treatment of these common eye conditions can help keep your vision healthy and clear. If you are interested in any of the many services we offer at Georgia Eye Physicians and Surgeons, or would like to make an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam, please contact us today. Be sure to follow Dr. William Segal and Dr. Marc Lay on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for more tips for healthy eyes.