senior man rubbing eyesOne in every three adults over 65 experiences vision loss. Eyesight changes can have a domino effect, potentially limiting one’s ability to perform daily tasks or travel. These factors lessen quality of life, as an individual may require assistance or no longer be able to drive.

Beyond aging, vision changes can be the result of other health issues like diabetes and hypertension, as well as a side effect of certain medications.

Types of Vision Changes

For older adults, vision changes fall into the following categories:

  • Presbyopia: You’re not able to see small-print text and close objects as sharply. This condition can typically be managed with reading glasses or bifocals.
  • Floaters: You notice small dots or specks in your field of vision, potentially with flashes of light. These can indicate retinal detachment, when part of the eye tears away from the supportive tissue.
  • Dry Eyes: The tear glands are unable to produce enough moisture, resulting in dry, itchy eyes that can affect your vision.
  • Tearing: You experience watery and easily irritated eyes, often the result of light sensitivity or temperature changes. This can indicate a blocked tear duct or infection.

Causes of Vision Changes in Older Adults

As we grow older, we experience a normal loss of peripheral or side vision. The natural lens of the eye also becomes less flexible over time. The following conditions are frequently behind vision loss:

  • Age-Related Macular Degeneration: You experience decreased or blurred vision in the center of your field of vision from deterioration of the macula, part of the retina.
  • Glaucoma: Primary open-angle glaucoma contributes to optic nerve damage, which compromises vision. You might notice pressure in or around your eyelid, although the condition is typically asymptomatic. Glaucoma can be hereditary or a result of certain lifestyle factors and may result in permanent blindness if left unaddressed. As such, older adults are advised to be screened yearly.
  • Cataracts: The most common cause of blindness, decreased opacity over the lens of the eye results in blurred vision or glare that prevents light from fully passing through. Cataracts typically develop slowly and may only moderately impact vision but can also come on quick, significantly decreasing vision quality. This condition can be surgically corrected.
  • Diabetic Retinopathy: Another prominent cause of blindness, diabetic retinopathy has potential to emerge during the first years of a diabetes diagnosis. As a result, those with this condition are advised to get regular eye exams.
  • Retinal Detachment: The inner and outer portions of the retina separate, decreasing the chain of communication between the eye and brain. Along with flashes and spots in your field of vision, you may also notice shadows or wavy shapes. Surgery can help correct this condition.
  • Conjunctivitis: Older adults have a greater chance of experiencing an infection around the eyelids and sclera, resulting in pink eye.
  • Corneal Changes: Infections and injuries can alter the cornea and impact vision, resulting in redness and watery eyes or creating a glow when you look at objects.
  • Physical Changes: Age can affect the eyelids, resulting in tearing, itching, greater light sensitivity, spasms, drooping or inflammation. Aging can also bring about temporal arteritis – inflammation of blood vessels – and permanent vision loss.

What You Can Do

The ability to see is a vital sense. To manage vision changes as you grow older:

  • Compensate for potential loss by adding brighter lights around the house.
  • See the eye doctor more often to check for age and health-related diseases.
  • Get immediate medical attention if your vision suddenly becomes blurry or you experience pain, swelling of the eyelid, redness or discharge.
  • Use vision modification devices, including magnifying glasses, light-filtering lenses, telescopic glasses or an electronic device with a larger font.
  • Take care as you drive, especially at intersections. Reduce your speed and try to do most of your driving during the daytime.

Are you or a loved one experiencing vision changes with age? The medical professionals at West Hartford Health & Rehabilitation Center can help manage your care. To learn more about our services, contact us today.