The reality of the aging eye is one of reduced vision, sensitivity to the sun, reduced visual acuity at night and in poor lighting conditions, tearing, and from time-to-time discharge. Simply put, we can’t see as well as we once could. In addition to these natural aspects of the aging process our risk of visual disease also increases. Symptoms like sudden vision changes, flashes of light and dry eye are often our first indications of a problem, a problem we shouldn’t ignore. We can hope it will go away on its own or that it will get better with time but unfortunately this becomes less and less likely the older we get. Your age, family history, related diseases (ie: diabetes), even the colour of your eyes can all play a factor in your long-term ocular health and regular eye exams are highly recommended for early diagnosis of visual disease.
And if the natural effects of aging on your eyes aren’t enough, there are some additional conditions that can strike with age. Some of the more common ones include:
- Presbyopia – Simply the very normal loss of near visual acuity that comes with age as our eyes loose their elasticity and ability to focus up close. This process begins as we pass 40 and results in the need for reading glasses or multi-focal lenses.
- Glaucoma – Often associated with a buildup of intraocular pressure that causes damage to the optic nerve resulting in loss of vision or blindness. It is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide, but when caught early most cases can be controlled.
- Cataracts – A clouding of the normally clear lens found within your eye that leads to decreased vision. They often develop slowly causing blurred vision, faded colours, and poor night vision as the lens becomes more and more opaque. Cataracts are very common and are routinely corrected with surgery.
- Macular Degeneration – A deterioration of the macula, the structure responsible for crisp, central vision. This degenerative condition presents with blurred vision, decreased visual acuity, sensitivity to glare, and loss of central vision and eventual blindness.
With all this comes a new reality of vision, a reality that can be combatted with innovation, treatment and technology. Lubricating drops that help rebuild the aging tear film increase contact lens comfort and help many contact lens wearers continue wearing them much later than they once could. Multifocal contact lenses offer discreet reading solutions for many, while new progressive lens designs that are customized to individual needs restore the ability to read and function in all manner of situations. Low vision aids from simple magnifiers to electronic devices help even those with the most severe vision loss to maintain their independence. A Licensed Optician is trained to help you determine and identify your visual needs, and is able to advise and design the most effective solutions to meet those needs.
And for those of you not at that magic age, remember, it’s coming. It’s never too soon to engage in prevention. Simple things like the use of UV protected sunglasses when you’re outside may reduce your risk of cataract development later. Blue-filtered lenses for those long hours on the computer may help reduce your risk of macular degeneration. And most important of all: regular eye examinations. They don’t just provide you with a prescription they also check the health of your eye and can often catch things before you become aware of them.
R.O Freelance Optician and Trainer