Eye Conditions from Old Age
Updated: May 21
Various changes occur in people's eyes as they age. The aging process affects the basic structures and functions of the eye and leads to different health issues. Eye conditions from old age could severely impact vision and quality of life in older adults.
In this article, we will explore the most common eye conditions from old age. Including their causes, symptoms, diagnosis, management, and prevention strategies. We base the information in this publication on current medical knowledge and research.
Table of Content:
2.2. Dry Eye Syndrome
What Happens to Your Eyes with Age?
The human eye undergoes natural changes as part of aging. These age-related changes impact vision and eye health. So it is vital to understand and manage them. That is the only way to maintain optimal visual function in older adults.
Here is a list of the natural changes in the eyes with age:
Presbyopia. The eye lens loses elasticity, making it harder to focus on close objects.
Dry eye syndrome. Tear production decreases, leading to dryness, discomfort, and blurred vision.
Reduced pupil size. The size of the pupil shrinks, resulting in a poorer ability to adapt to changes in lighting with an increased risk of glare and bad night vision.
Color perception changes. The ability to perceive certain colors may decrease, particularly in the blue-violet range.
Changes in the tear film. Tear film becomes less stable, causing dryness and discomfort.
Changes in the eye structure. Cornea may become thinner and less transparent, impacting vision quality. You may require corrective glasses or contacts.
Increased risk of cataracts. Eye lens becomes cloudy, contributing to cloudy or blurry vision)
Increased risk of age-related macular degeneration - AMD. A leading cause of vision loss in older adults, AMD affects the macula, causing blurry or distorted vision.
Regular eye examinations, adopting a healthy lifestyle, and timely eye care help manage these changes. As well as maintain our optimal eye health as we age.
RELATED ARTICLE: How to Protect Your Vision When Aging?
The Most Common Old Age Eye Conditions
All the natural changes in the human body during aging make people more susceptible to eye problems. Knowing how to identify different eye conditions in time could save your vision.
Interested in learning more about common eye conditions that arise as we age? Let's explore the diseases, their causes, symptoms, risk factors, diagnosis, and management options:
1. Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
Among the chronic eye conditions from old age, AMD is one of the most common. It is also a leading cause of vision loss in older adults. The eye condition directly affects the central part of the retina (macula). Since the macula is the part of the eye responsible for sharp central vision, AMD worsens your eyesight.
We can classify age-related macular degeneration into two types:
Dry AMD - Dry age-related macular degeneration appears as the accumulation of yellow deposits (drusen) in the macula. These deposits can lead to cell dysfunction, macular tissue thinning and atrophy.
Wet AMD - Wet age-related macular degeneration, involves the growth of abnormal blood vessels in the macula. These vessels can leak fluid and blood, leading to rapid vision loss.
AMD Risk factors
There is little knowledge of what causes AMD. However, age, genetics, smoking, high blood pressure, and poor nutrition are serious risk factors to consider. They could contribute to the onset of age-related macular degeneration.
Some of the common symptoms of age-related macular degeneration are:
Blurry or distorted central vision
Black or missing areas in the central visional field
Difficulty recognizing faces
Age-related macular degeneration is diagnosed through a comprehensive eye examination. The procedure includes visual acuity testing, a dilated eye examination, optical coherence tomography (OCT), and fluorescein angiography.
Management of AMD may involve lifestyle changes. For instance, quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet rich in antioxidants, and taking supplements. In some cases, medication or laser therapy may be helpful in treating wet AMD and slowing its progression.
Comprehensive article about AMD coming soon.
2. Dry Eye Syndrome
When your eyes do not produce enough tears or they evaporate too quickly, that leads to discomfort and dryness of the ocular surface. The medical term for that condition is Dry Eye Syndrome. Dry eye is a common health problem that becomes more prevalent with age.
Dry Eye Risk Factors
The major risk factors for dry eye syndrome include age, hormonal changes, certain medications, environmental factors, and autoimmune conditions.
Dry Eye Symptoms
Dry Eye Syndrome is one of the most unpleasant eye conditions from old age because of its symptoms:
Diagnosing Dry Eye
Diagnosis of dry eye syndrome involves an eye doctor's exam. The eye doctor has to evaluate tear production, tear quality, and ocular surface integrity and can prescribe the needed treatment.
Dry Eye Treatment
Treatment starts with lifestyle changes, using moisturizing artificial tears and applying warm compresses. Avoiding triggers such as dry environments and prolonged screen time is also a good step to getting better. In severe cases - medications, punctal plugs, or meibomian gland expression are also an option for dry eye treatment.
RELATED ARTICLE: Obstructive Sleep Apnea and The Risk of Dry Eye
Cataracts are one of the most common eye conditions from old age. They occur when the natural lens of the eye becomes cloudy, resulting in blurry or hazy vision. Cataracts usually develop gradually over time. They may affect one eye or both eyes.
The cause of cataracts could be age-related changes in the lens proteins. But it could also be exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, certain medications, and systemic diseases (e.g. diabetes).
The most common symptoms of cataracts from old age are:
Difficulty seeing in low light
Reduced color perception
To get the diagnosis of cataracts you need to get through a full eye exam with an ophthalmologist. It usually includes visual acuity testing, slit-lamp examination, and dilated eye examination.
The management of cataracts involves monitoring their progression. Then addressing any visual impairments with corrective lenses. In advanced cases, your doctor may recommend cataract surgery (phacoemulsification, Femtosecond laser-assisted cataract surgery - FLACS, or extracapsular cataract extraction - ECCE). Different surgeries use different surgical methods. All involve removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with an artificial lens.
Comprehensive article about Cataracts coming soon.
Glaucoma is an eye disease that damages the optic nerve that transmits visual signals to the brain. The eye condition often leads to increased intraocular pressure (IOP). Although some types of glaucoma might occur with normal or low IOP.
There are several types of glaucoma*:
Primary open-angle glaucoma - Occurs when the drainage angle of the eye is blocked partially, leading to a rise in intraocular pressure (IOP) over time. This type of glaucoma is most common among patients.
Angle-closure glaucoma - Occurs when the drainage angle of the eye becomes fully blocked. Results in a sudden increase in intraocular pressure causing severe symptoms. This glaucoma type requires immediate medical attention!
Normal-tension glaucoma - In this type of glaucoma, optic nerve damage, and visual field loss occurs despite normal intraocular pressure, suggesting other factors play a role.
Congenital glaucoma - A rare form that is present at birth or develops during infancy. The cause is abnormalities in the eye's drainage system.
Secondary glaucoma - Result of an injury, inflammation, tumors, or medication side effects. Secondary glaucoma leads to increased intraocular pressure and optic nerve damage.
Pigmentary glaucoma - Caused by pigment dispersion in the eye, pigmentary glaucoma leads to blockage of the drainage angle and increased intraocular pressure.
Exfoliative glaucoma - Occurs when a buildup of extracellular material in the eye leads to blockage of the drainage angle and higher IOP.
Traumatic glaucoma - A type of glaucoma present after an eye injury, disrupting the normal drainage system of the eye.
*Please note that not every type on the list is a result of the aging process. This list is informational.
Glaucoma is often asymptomatic in its early stages. But, it can gradually progress to vision loss if left untreated.
That makes glaucoma one of the most dangerous eye conditions from old age. So we urge all older adults NOT to skip their annual eye exams with an ophthalmologist.
Glaucoma Risk Factors
Risk factors for glaucoma include age, family history, high IOP, African or Hispanic ethnicity. Also, certain medical conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Glaucoma diagnosis involves measuring IOP and assessing the optic nerve head through a dilated eye exam. Your eye doctor would also need visual field testing to detect any characteristic patterns of vision loss.
Glaucoma treatment may involve the use of medications (eyedrops) to lower IOP, laser therapy, or surgical interventions to improve the drainage of aqueous humor from the eye. Regular monitoring and adherence to treatment plans are key in preventing further vision loss.
Comprehensive article about Glaucoma coming soon.
Prevention Strategies for Eye Conditions from Old Age
While certain eye conditions are associated with old age and may be inevitable, there are several prevention strategies that older adults can adopt. These approaches would help you maintain vision as you age and reduce the risks.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle at an older age plays a crucial part in good eye health. Focus on eating a balanced diet rich in antioxidants, getting regular exercise, and quitting smoking. Moreover, try managing diabetes, hypertension, and other systemic conditions.
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Managing medications carefully is key to slowing or preventing the development of eye conditions from old age. Follow dosages and prescription instructions. Inform your healthcare providers about the medications and supplements you are taking. This way the doctor will avoid potential drug interactions or side effects that could impact eye health.
Blood pressure and blood sugar control
Maintaining optimal blood pressure and blood sugar levels is crucial for eye health. Especially in preventing or managing eye conditions from old age. This is crucial for patients with glaucoma and retinal conditions like diabetic retinopathy and retinal vascular diseases!
Some eye conditions from old age are avoidable by protecting your eyes! UV light may contribute to the development of cataracts and other diseases older adults tend to suffer from. Wearing sunglasses with UV block and wide-brimmed hats is a good way to protect yourself from harmful sun rays.
RELATED ARTICLE: How to Choose The Right Sunglasses?
Creating an eye-friendly environment contributes to delaying or preventing age-related eye conditions. Ensure proper lighting, reduce glare, and position screens and reading materials at an appropriate distance. That way, you can reduce the risks of eye strain and dry eye.
Avoid eye rubbing, take regular screen breaks, and use artificial tears regularly. Practicing good eye hygiene helps maintain a healthy ocular surface and prevents dry eye syndrome.
Regular eye examinations
Regular visits to the eye doctor are crucial for the early detection and management of eye conditions from old age! Older adults should visit an ophthalmologist at least once a year or as recommended by their eye care professional. This is crucial to maintain your vision as you age.
RELATED ARTICLE: How Often Should You Visit Your Eye Doctor for an Eye Checkup?
By following these preventive measures and seeking timely eye care, you are a set closer to the goal of having good vision in your golden years. Moreover, it is a must for older adults to work with their eye doctor to develop personalized eye care plans. Such a plan takes into consideration a patient's individual needs and the risk factors for developing eye conditions from old age.
Learn more about proper eye care in the Ophthalmology24 blog.
Eye Health Tips for Older Adults, American Academy of Ophthalmology
All medical facts are checked by Atanas Bogoev M.D.