While there are some normal vision changes that occur with the natural aging process of the eye, vision loss is not one of them.
What is normal?
Presbyopia. Literally meaning “old eye” in Greek, presbyopia is where focusing on objects up close becomes more difficult. This typically begins around age 40, advances with age, and is a perfectly normal loss of focusing ability due to the hardening of the lens inside your eye. This is easily corrected with reading glasses, progressive/bifocal glasses or multifocal contact lenses.
Cataracts. Normal age changes involving the natural lens of the eye include cataracts. The crystalline lens becomes sclerosed or cloudy, causing vision to be blurred and inducing glare. Vision changes from cataracts can begin as early as 40 and typically peak around 60 or 70. Thankfully, cataract surgery is safe and effective at restoring vision lost from cataracts. Surgery has advanced so that some patients may not have to wear glasses afterwards due to multifocal implants and accommodative lenses.
What isn’t normal?
Older adults are at higher risk for certain eye diseases and conditions, some often having no early symptoms. The most common eye diseases/conditions include glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, dry eye, and vascular retinopathy (i.e. diabetic, hypertensive). These can be detected during a comprehensive dilated eye exam and treatment is most effective when an eye disease is diagnosed early.
What can you do?
A yearly comprehensive, dilated eye examination can help your eye doctor monitor for abnormalities as you age. You should discuss with your optometrist all concerns you have about your eyes, family history of eye problems, and other health issues you may have. Your optometrist should know what medications you take including over-the-counter drugs. And last but not least, a lifestyle with healthy diet, exercise, and not smoking is your best natural defense again vision loss with aging.