The Common Change that affects Eyesight with Age

The Common Change that affects Eyesight with Age

Aging is a natural process. From the moment we are born, we start aging. For a while we grow, our body matures, it maintains itself, and then gradually, some functions begin to wane in older age. One of the most common changes that older adults experience is vision loss or problems. A 2013 report by the American Foundation for the Blind found that 12 percent of adults aged 45 to 64 reported losses of vision. This proportion increased in subsequent decades, with 12 percent of adults aged 65 to 74 and 15 percent of adults aged 75 and older reporting vision loss.

There are several age-related changes that occur in the eyes that can lead to vision loss. When driving, older adults may see more of a glare coming off cars and windows. Colors may begin to distort, which makes it harder to distinguish between certain colors. Often older adults tend to need more light when reading, especially when reading up close. Reading at a close distance also becomes harder for older adults due to the eye’s inability to focus on close images, a condition called presbyopia. Presbyopia becomes noticeable in the mid 40s and continues into the 60s as the eye undergoes a natural loss of focus.

Presbyopia and the Eye

The eye, although small, is quite complicated and delicate. The main parts of the eye that are involved in presbyopia are the corona and the lens. The corona, or the outermost part of the eye, is clear and dome-shaped. The corona refracts light that hits the eye and bends it. The lens is behind the iris and the pupil, and it works in conjunction with the corona. The lens is synonymous with a camera lens that focuses what you are seeing into a sharp, crisp, and clear image. It is flexible so that when you are looking at something far away, the muscles attached to the lens relax, but when you look at something close to you, the muscle constricts. Over time, the lens starts to naturally harden, which limits its ability to constrict. This makes it easier to see objects that are farther away, and objects up close to appear out of focus. This is the basic premise of presbyopia, though the condition is marked by several other normal changes in vision.

Symptoms of Presbyopia 

  1. Floaters: Small black or white flecks that float in and out of your field of vision.  They are caused by fluid in the eye that is produced as the body ages. Floaters aren’t a reason to worry. However, if you see more than normal or your vision starts flashing, it’s important to see an optometrist. You may have a retinal tear.
  2. Headaches when reading up close.
  3. Difficulty reading small print.
  4. Needing to hold reading materials an arm’s length away from the face.

If you notice any of these changes in yourself, don’t worry, it’s fixable! A trip to the optometrist for contact lenses, a pair of glasses, or a discussion about surgery will do the trick.

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Grace Weintrob is a junior majoring in Communication Studies with a minor in Stage, Sports, and Film Production at CSU. She is currently working as the digital media intern for the Columbine Health Systems Center for Healthy Aging.