We all know that as time passes unfortunately our body changes. Our eyes are not immune to these changes, which is not a surprise.
Often the first sign, usually at around 40, is that small print becomes harder to read. We begin to need help to read. This is a process that happens to the lens inside the eye that starts at the moment we are born and reaches this critical point at around 40 years of age.
The lens gradually becomes harder and less able to change it’s shape, which is what it needs to do to focus on close objects like print. This process continues over the years, which is why we need stronger help as the years pass.
The next stage of this aging process of the lens inside the eye is the beginning of cataracts, which will start imperceptibly and gradually become more problematic.
Research over recent years has shown that exposure to Ultra Violet light speeds up the aging process of the lens inside the eye, and this is why it is important to protect our eyes from childhood onwards.
From the age of 60 the chances of age-related macular degeneration increase significantly. This has been linked to the fact that the body does not absorb nutrition from food as well as it used to as we age. It is noticeable that a lot of advertising for vitamins and nutrients is aimed at the age group of 50 plus.
The eye needs very specific nutrients to protect itself from the damage caused to the retina at the back of the eye by light (specifically high energy blue light). These nutrients are source from age yolks, green leafy vegetables, peppers etc. As our absorption drops we need to eat more of them to get the same benefit, or start taking supplements like Macushield or similar.
We also need to protect our eyes from the high energy blue light, which high quality sunglasses like Maui Jim and Serengeti will do.
As we continue to age, the risk of Glaucoma increases, and of course if we become diabetic the the risk of diabetic retinopathy can become a problem. All of these age related changes are fairly well known, but there are many subtle changes in our vision and eyes that are likely to occur.
With age, the muscles that open and close our pupils weaken. This means that they are less able to react to light changes, increasing our susceptibility to glare.
Our pupils get smaller, meaning that we need more light to perform visual tasks such as reading and hobbies. Extra lighting can make life a lot easier here.
Another very common change as we get older is that the tear film fails, causing tired, itchy or runny eyes. Again, there is a lot that can be done, from simple drops to reinforce the failing tear film to treatment of the glands to unblock and re-stimulate the tear glands.
One of the less well-known effects of the eye ageing is that we tend to lose 1-2 degrees of our vision field per decade which is why by the time we reach our 70’s our visual field has narrowed significantly. There is nothing currently that can be done about this, however monitoring and awareness is important.
Again, something that isn’t immediately apparent because it is such a slow process, is that the retinal cells become less sensitive to colour and brightness over the years, we just don’t see colours as well as we used to. If a cataract is developing as well, this has a significant effect.
The clear jelly inside the eye can also change and can start to pull away from the retina, causing “spots and floaters” and (sometimes) flashes of light. This is referred to as a vitreous detachment. This condition often becomes more prevalent if we don’t drink enough fluid, another common factor as we get older.
There are many ways you can reduce, mitigate and treat these age-related eye health issues. Regular, frequent eye exams will allow these changes to be monitored, and your optician is the best person to provide advice regarding your eye health and vision.