Aging is a problem that affects all parts of your body and of course your eyes too. At the moment when you are eligible to get your pension, you have been using your eyes for decades and problems may start arising no matter how good your eyesight was used to be. There are various changes that can happen to your eyes, ranging from mild decreased vision to sight-threatening diseases. Unfortunately, not all of these eye changes have symptoms and you may not notice them until it’s too late. Now let’s take a look at some age-related eye changes.
Changes in Refractive Error and Visual Functions
When people are old, every aspect of the visual functions start showing declined performance. For example, the curvature of your cornea will change which induce astigmatism. The lens are thickened by age causing the refractive error shifting towards shortsightedness. The lens and ciliary muscles work weaker at near result in presbyopia and hamper the reading vision. At the same time, there are less retinal light-sensitive cells in old people which reduce their visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, colour vision, visual field and time needed for light adaptation. If not handled properly, it may not just give inconvenience but also increases their risk of fall. It is almost 2 times more common for visually impaired elderly to fall 2 or more times per year.
Dry Eyes and Tearing
Dry eyes and tearing are more commonly found in people aged 50 years or older. Some elderly produces less tears or the tears evaporate too fast which cause dry eye. But on the other hand, the eyelid becomes loose during aging that may not be able to hold the tears, causing excessive tearing. The lacrimal duct can also be obstructed that fuels tearing problem. Dry eyes and tearing can be more than just disturbing. If the problem is significant and the cornea is not nourished well by the tears, the cornea will be wounded, causing decreased vision, inflammation and infection that can be blind.
Age-related Eye Diseases
Thanks to the improved public education, people pay more attention to eye diseases that are common in elderly. Nowadays many seniors have heard about these diseases such as cataract, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration. But some of them still believe that their eyes are fine as they think they can still see. Indeed, many of these age-related eye problem do not necessary have symptoms. For example, what chronic glaucoma patients experience are painless gradual loss of peripheral vision. These patients can still have good central vision even in advanced stages which their visual field is as narrow as a tunnel.
Ocular Complications from Systemic Diseases
As there are complicated blood vessel and nervous network in the eyes, eyes are susceptible to damages from general health disorders which are commonly found in elderly. For example, diabetes and hypertension predispose retinopathy that can cause sudden, painless permanent vision loss. Blood clots in people with high blood cholesterol level can block retinal vessels that result in stroke in the eye. Moreover, cognitive diseases such as dementia possibly reduces visual functions like visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, colour vision, blink reflex and eye movements.
All in all, eyes are commonly affected during aging process and not all of these disorders give symptoms. To discover these eye problems, optometrists can help conduct comprehensive eye examinations that cover more than refraction and visual clarity. It is recommended for elderly to have comprehensive eye tests at least once a year.
By Jeff Tang, Registered (Part I) Optometrist
Eyecare information by Swisscoat Vision Centre
Address : G/F Yuen Yick Building, 27-29 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong
Appointment :+852 3579 4763
Website : www.swisscoat.com
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