Remember when you could clearly see a football’s length away and knew without a doubt that was your boyfriend cavorting with the head majorette at the other end of the field? Oh, to have those eagle eyes once again.
As we age, most people acquire a condition called presbyopia, which means you can’t focus on close-up objects and require reading glasses. The reason this happens is because the lens of the eye hardens and loses its ability to change shape. Consequently, close-up images are out of focus.
C.P.: There are many things about the aging process I don’t like but I especially don’t like the age-related vision issues. Until the age of 42, I could see fine. Everything went downhill from there. First it was reading glasses and then I required distance glasses. I can’t manage bifocals so I am constantly switching back and forth from one pair to another depending on what I’m doing. I generally have a pair on my head (sometimes two) for easy access. I started wearing contacts, on occasion. I prefer contacts to glasses but have issues with them. My life revolves around eyewear.
Parts of the Eye
The cornea – the clear, dome-shaped front surface – and the lens of the eye are what allow us to focus light reflected from objects. The cornea and lens both bend or refract light as it comes into the eye, which enables the eye to focus the image on the retina, located on the inside back wall of the eye.
The lens, unlike the cornea, is flexible and changes shape because of the circular muscle encompassing it. This circular muscle relaxes when you are looking at something far away.
However, when trying to read and see things close-up, the muscle compresses, allowing the elastic lens to change and curve its focusing strength. Unfortunately, in older people the muscle does not constrict properly and you can no longer read without glasses.
Time is not a friend when it comes to your eyes. Changes occur in muscle fibers surrounding the lens in the eye and within the protein contained in the lens.
C.K.: I started wearing reading glasses at age 40, trifocals at age 50. The worst part is I cannot walk up or down stairs without falling.
Another eye issue coming with age is cataracts, cloudy areas in the lens inside the eye. The lens is supposed to be clear. When the lens becomes partially or totally opaque because of a cataract, light cannot easily pass through the lens and vision gets blurry.
Nearly half of the people in the United States over the age of 65 have cataracts. For those age 75 and older, 70 percent have serious visual impairment due to cataracts. Over time, the clouding can get worse. Some opt for cataract surgery.
R.S., age 63: I started wearing contacts at 45. At 60, I had cataracts and had new lenses put in both eyes. I can still see well at a distance but need reading glasses
Menopause and Vision
When a woman nears and then fully enters menopause this can impact her vision. Shifting hormones are the culprit. Vision can change during puberty and pregnancy, also because of hormonal swings. The shape of the eye may alter during menopause making contacts uncomfortable. Menopausal women report dry and itchy eyes, hazy vision, light sensitivity, red or swollen eyelids and increased tearing.
R.S.S.: When I got pregnant my entire metabolism went wonky. I became allergic to the wetting solution (used with contacts.) I’ve tried to wear them a few times since then but to no avail. I tolerate the lens just not the juices that are required to go with them.
Glaucoma, the leading cause of blindness, particularly among older people, is a cluster of eye diseases resulting in optic nerve damage. When nerve fibers become damaged because of a build-up of fluid causing pressure, blind spots appear in the field of vision. Vision loss occurs and is permanent. Getting tested regularly. If caught early, permanent nerve damage can be avoided.
Macular degeneration is another eye problem older people experience. In fact, it is the top cause of blindness among women age 65 and over. Being menopausal and postmenopausal are risk factors.
Estrogen replacement may thwart or postpone of this condition. Ask your eye doctor about estrogen replacement and about vitamin and mineral supplements if you are at high risk (family history, overexposure to the sun, high blood pressure and/or smoking) of acquiring this disease.
What Should You Do?
Make your eyes your priority. Have your eyes examined at least once a year so early diagnoses can be made. Know your family medical history. Do your parents have high blood pressure? Diabetes? Glaucoma?
Wear sunglasses when outside. Exercising regularly can reduce the change of age-related macular degeneration up to 70 percent, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Eating foods (colorful or dark green vegetables and fruits) containing antioxidants lessens the chance of cataracts forming. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish, reduce the peril of acquiring macular degeneration. Ask your eye doctor about eye vitamins. Don’t smoke.
Share This Blog
Thanks Cindi. I need to know this. I am not taking care of my eyes at all. The timing of this article is the motivation I need. A real eye-opener.