How does age affect vision?

Most people would rate their sight as their most important sense, due to the fact that we process as much as 80% of the world around us visually. Age-related vision changes are a natural part of the aging process, and our needs and problems vary according to age and lifestyle. So, it’s critical to protect your precious sight and be aware of these age-related vision changes that can occur over a lifetime.

Although you can’t prevent hereditary conditions, some advanced-age vision problems and complications can be prevented early on. Following a healthy diet and not smoking are the best defense strategies. You can read more about eye health and nutrition. So, what else do you need to know about age and eye health?

Childhood vision changes

Children can develop vision problems early in life, and without the ability to voice their own concerns, it’s up to parents to keep a close watch on their development. The most common vision problems that can develop in early childhood include:

Nearsightedness (myopia), which results in difficulty focusing distant objects.
Farsightedness (hyperopia), which results in difficulty reading and focusing near objects.
Lazy eye (amblyopia), which results in crossed or misaligned eyes, and often occurs in infancy. It can be corrected if detected early.

Your child’s vision can have a profound impact on his or her behavior and concentration and is critical for success in early education. Although many schools will perform basic eye tests, it’s important to have your child’s eyes examined regularly by a specialist. Eye exams are free for children younger than 16 under the NHS.

Students and young adults: Technology and vision problems

It’s important to continue healthy habits throughout school age and into young adulthood. A diet rich in eye-healthy vitamins can help preserve vision as the eyes mature. Plenty of exercise and a limited amount of screen time can also help keep eyes in tip-top shape. Impaired vision affects young people’s inde­pendent studying, classroom performance, as well as sporting and other activities. It may be challenging to separate your teens from their smartphones, but limiting exposure to mobile devices also helps give young eyes the rest they need to thrive while becoming fully developed. For active lifestyles, many young people choose daily contact lenses to correct myopia, thus eliminating the need for contact lens care and maintenance.

Adults and middle age vision changes

Continued screen use and long working days contribute to overall eye fatigue and dry eye syndrome. Get in the habit of resting your eyes during your work day to prevent and relieve eye strain. Experts suggest the 20–20–20 rule: every 20 minutes, look away from your computer and focus on an object 20 feet away from you for about 20 seconds. Another concern is the onset of presbyopia, an age-related condition causing the eye lens to lose flexibility. This results in an inability to focus on near objects, and difficulty transitioning between near and far objects. Presbyopia is not the same as farsightedness, as its onset is usually around the age of 40, but it can usually be corrected with multifocal contact lenses. Make sure to schedule an eye examination every year, especially if you notice any changes in your night vision, depth perception, or while driving.

Advanced age vision impairment

With advancing age comes a variety of new eye-health concerns. Cataracts, glaucoma and AMD are not usually painful conditions, but they do affect quality of vision.

Cataracts cause blurred or cloudy vision due to a loss of transparency of the eye lens. They are usually treated with surgery.
Glaucoma is a result of a buildup of pressure in the eyeball that causes damage to the optic nerve. It can be treated with eye drops or, in some cases, surgery.
• Age-related macular degeneration and low vision (AMD) affects central, not peripheral vision.

The onset of menopause in women can cause dry eye symptoms, and hormone replacement therapy can often exacerbate the problem. Talk to your doctor if you experience dry, irritated eyes as a result of menopause or any associated medications.

Our eyes are our most precious resources. Although we cannot prevent hereditary or age-related conditions, we can do our best throughout our lifetime to preserve and maintain healthy vision. This starts with a healthy, balanced lifestyle and regular examinations from your eye-care professional.

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