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50-year-old man standing in the sunlight, looking out at the distance
50-year-old man standing in the sunlight, looking out at the distance

40s + 50s Eye Conditions

It is important to get a comprehensive eye exam at 40 years of age and then every two years after that—even if you have no problems with your vision. As you age, it is normal to notice changes in your vision such as:

  • Losing the ability to see up close (known as presbyopia)
  • Difficulty distinguishing between colors, such as blue from black
  • Requiring more time for your eyes to adjust to changing levels of light

These common problems are often easily correctable. With aging also comes a higher likelihood of developing systemic health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes—all of which can cause serious damage to your eyes.

A regular eye exam is the best way to protect your eyesight—it is particularly important if you notice a change in your vision, if your eye is injured in any way, if you have high blood pressure, diabetes or a family history of eye disease. In your 40s and 50s, you should have an eye exam at least every two years (or as recommended by your eye doctor); problems could develop without any signs or symptoms.

Did You Know?

Your eyes can be a window to your overall health. Many illnesses can be detected during a comprehensive eye exam, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, autoimmune diseases and cancers.

During your eye exam, your eye doctor has an unobstructed view of blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue. Abnormalities spotted in the eye may signal abnormalities in other parts of the body.

Eye Diseases + Conditions

In older adults, many of the following eye problems can lead to vision loss and blindness. Many may have few to no early symptoms, so seeing your eye doctor is the best way to protect yourself. If they detect a problem early, there are often steps that can be taken. Your eye doctor will check for signs and symptoms of the following conditions:

  • Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD):
    AMD is a condition that affects the center of the retina, called the macula. This condition can harm the sharp, central vision that is needed to see objects clearly and perform common tasks such as reading and driving. Your eye doctor will check for signs of AMD during a dilated eye exam. There are treatments available, as well as eye vitaminslink-out icon and dietary supplements, that can lower your chances of it getting worse.
  • Diabetic Retinopathy (DR):
    DR is a complication of diabetes in which blood vessels in the eye are damaged, allowing fluid to escape. It is a leading cause of blindness in working-age adults. It generally develops slowly and often has no early warning signs. If you have diabetes, it is recommended that you get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. Controlling your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol can help prevent or slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy in its early stages. Laser surgery during later stages can sometimes prevent the condition from worsening.

See Also: Diabetic Macular Edema (DME)

  • Glaucoma:
    Glaucoma is a group of diseases that can damage the eye’s optic nerve. It is most often caused by too much fluid pressure (known as intraocular pressure, or IOP). If not treated, glaucoma can lead to vision loss and blindness. It is estimated that half of the people with glaucoma do not know they have it, as there are often no early symptoms or pain. Glaucoma treatment options include prescription eye drops, lasers and surgery.
  • Dry Eye:
    Dry eye is a common and treatable condition that occurs when your eyes don't make enough tears to stay wet or when your tears don't work correctly. People tend to make fewer tears as they age as a result of hormonal changes. Other causes include extended contact lens wear, screen time, reading or other activities that reduce blinking and tear production. Dry eye is more common in women—especially those who have gone through menopause. This condition can cause discomfort, including a stinging, burning or sandy sensation in the eyes. Your eye doctor may recommend a humidifier, artificial tears or ointments as treatment. More severe cases sometimes warrant prescription medication, tear duct plugs or surgery.
    • Artificial tears are available without a prescription and can be used to provide symptom relief when your eyes feel dry
    • Biotrue® Hydration Boost Lubricant Eye Dropslink-out icon from Bausch + Lomb provide instant moisture for dry, irritated eyes and are contact lens friendly!*

    *Based on standardized testing (ISO 11981) on soft contact lenses. Not meant to lubricate or rewet lenses.

    • Soothe®link-out icon XP Emollient (Lubricant) Eye Drops: from Bausch + Lomb help restore the lipid layer of tears, seal in moisture and protect against further irritation.
  • Sjögren’s Syndrome:
    Sjögren’s syndrome is a common autoimmune disease that attacks the glands responsible for keeping your eyes and mouth lubricated. The classic symptom of Sjögren’s syndrome is extreme dryness of the eyes, mouth, throat and other areas of the body over prolonged periods of time. While it can affect anyone, the most common patients are women between 40 and 60 years of age. An eye doctor may diagnose Sjögren’s syndrome after observing dryness of the eyes and mouth, and running tests to detect the presence of the condition.

Signs of an Eye Emergency

See an eye care professional right away if you experience:

  • Sudden loss or severe blurring of vision
  • Sudden increase in floaters or flashes
  • Eye pain
  • Double vision
  • Redness or swelling of eye or eyelid
  • Loss of peripheral vision
  • Extreme sensitivity to light

Signs + Symptoms

Remember, this information is not meant to replace your regularly scheduled eye examinations. The best way to detect and monitor for conditions affecting your eyes is to see your eye doctor.

  • Cloudy Vision
    If your vision seems dim or you’re having trouble reading, watching television or just seeing what’s around you—even when you’re wearing your glasses or contact lenses—you may have cataracts in one or both eyes. Age-related cataracts are the most common type of cataracts; as we age, the lenses inside our eyes become more cloudy. Cataract surgery safely gets rid of cataracts and corrects corresponding vision problems.
  • Distorted Vision
    The effects of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in its early stages often go unnoticed. In AMD, the macula, the part of your retina that’s responsible for central vision, deteriorates and creates a blind spot in the middle of your field of vision. AMD is the leading cause of vision loss in people over 50, but it progresses slowly. Your eye doctor will check for this disease during your annual eye examination.
  • Floating Spots + Flashes of Light
    We all occasionally see spots, specks and other things that look like dark bits of string floating in our eyes. These are actually cells and fibers in the vitreous—the gel-like fluid that fills the eye. You will most often notice floaters when looking at something plain, such as a blank wall or blue sky.

Floaters are usually infrequent, isolated occurrences that are a perfectly normal part of vision. The vitreous gel thickens and shrinks as we age, sometimes forming tiny clumps. These clumps cast shadows onto the retina, and the resulting forms and shapes are referred to as eye floaters.

If you suddenly see more floaters than normal, and they’re accompanied by bright, flashing lights, the floaters may be a warning sign of an impending retinal detachment—an actual tear between the vitreous part of the eye and the retina. If left untreated, this tear can expand and lead to vision loss. See your eye doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.

  • Loss of Peripheral Vision
    If you’ve noticed that you don’t have the side-to-side (peripheral) vision you’re used to, this may be an early sign of glaucoma. Glaucoma often develops with no symptoms, making it difficult for patients to detect until significant (and potentially irreversible) damage has been done. For this reason, it is important to frequently be checked by an eye doctor for ocular hypertension (a condition that causes high pressure in the eye), which can mean a person is at high risk for glaucoma.
  • Low Vision/Vision Loss

    Few individuals are totally without sight. When ordinary glasses or contact lenses don't produce clear vision, you are considered to have low vision.

    While regular eye examinations and early diagnosis of eye disease can save much of your vision, in some cases, you may already have incurred some vision loss before you see your doctor and begin treatment. There are many possible causes of low vision, with the most common being age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma. Low vision is more common among older adults.

    There are many products and devices such as magnifiers that can help people with low vision. In addition, some eye doctors specialize in rehabilitation for low vision, so ask your eye doctor for recommendations.

  • Ocular Allergies
    Eye allergies, also known as allergic conjunctivitis, are common. If you suffer from red, watery, itchy eyes, ask your doctor about DoctoRX's Allergy Formula Ocular Allergy Diagnostic System (OADS)—an FDA-approved in-office test that enables eye doctors to test for allergies that may be the underlying cause of your eye allergies or irritations.

See Also: 40s + 50s Eye Conditions

Tips for Healthy Eyes

There are steps you can take to protect your eyes at any age:

Diabetes and Your Eyes

If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, it’s important to have your eyes examined every year to check for a condition called diabetic retinopathy.

High blood sugar and high blood pressure can damage the tiny blood vessels that lead to your retina. This painless condition often has no symptoms until it’s serious. But regular visits to your eye doctor may detect it in its early stages. Diabetic retinopathy can be controlled and treated, and its progress slowed significantly if detected before you experience vision loss.