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, or 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.
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 vitamins 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):
- 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.
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