Mona is a veteran writer for Pressenza, columnist for Enrich Magazine, and life coach. She holds webinars on writing and emotional health.
When we’re in our 20s, we never imagine that 40 years down the road, our vision may fail. Instead, we focus on getting expensive, branded eyeglasses, or sunglasses that make us look fabulous. We dabble between soft contact lenses or disposable ones. Eye care is all about fashion.
Then 60 catches you by surprise, and you wake up and find a smoking black “puzzle piece” shaped thing that blocks your middle vision. That happened to me. Naturally, I googled it and an article said to see your eye doctor immediately.
That black puzzle piece caused my permanent loss of middle vision on my left eye. I visited my doctor and followed her orders. I also went into denial, avoiding articles on age-related wet macular degeneration (AMD).
A New Club
I also discovered a “secret club” of people who only have one good eye. A neighbor, a cousin, and four friends. For varying reasons they only had one eye that was useful, and all of them were age 60 or older.
After I got through my denial stage, I became thankful for my one good eye. But it is very likely that people aged 70, 80, and 90 will have worsening vision problems, and it’s because as we age, everything in our body is not as strong as it used to be. For example, with age, we experience the following with our eyes:
- Our pupils shrink in size as the muscles that support our pupils weaken with age.
- We get more glare and bright sunlight. To control this, we use eyeglasses with photochromic lenses to reduce the problem and make your vision almost entirely clear. Also, when you go out, these lenses automatically adjust to bright sunlight, controlling reflection with an anti-reflective coat.
- We get dry eyes. It happens with age. We produce less tears, especially women after menopause. This results in a burning, stinging feeling, and dry eye discomfort. Artificial tears used all day can control pain, but we also need to see our eye doctor.
- We lose our peripheral vision. This usually happens in our 70s and 80s. Peripheral vision loss occurs at these ages by 20 to 30 degrees.
- Color problems. Cells in our retina affect colors but with age these cells weaken, resulting in problems seeing color brightness and contrast in colors.
Vitreous detachment. The vitreous is a light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. With age, it begins to detach from the retina. We see floaters and spots which may indicate that the retina is starting to detach itself. If not immediately treated, it can lead to blindness.
Some eye problems that are age-related include:
- Presbyopia. When this happens you can’t see things clearly, even when they’re near. It starts from ages 45 to 60, caused by the hardening of your eye lenses, according to Cleveland clinic. If you remove your glasses to read documents pressed against your nose, or bend in half during mealtimes so you can see what you’re eating, you may have presbyopia, and it worsens with age. Buy nearsighted eyeglasses and see your doctor.
More serious age related eye changes include:
- Cataracts. My husband regularly visits his diabetes doctor, and although he had no symptoms, his doctor ordered an eye exam, where my husband learned he has cataracts. His doctor says it’s too soon in the game to do anything about the cataracts, but he is monitoring it regularly. Cataracts are caused by age, diabetes, high blood pressure, injury to your eye’s lens, and inherited genetic disorders, among others. As it advances, you will have blurred vision. If untreated, cataracts will lead to blindness. So have your cataracts removed when your doctor tells you too. Surgery is safe and effective, according to the Mayo Clinic.
- Glaucoma. The optic nerve, located at the back of the eye, transmits what we see around us to the brain. Its health depends on a balance of fluid in the eye, and what maintains that balance is the mechanism that produces the fluid and drains it regularly. When there is too much fluid in the eye it means it is not draining well. This causes high pressure which damages the optic nerve. With glaucoma one has their middle vision, but the surrounding vision may be blurry, have glare, and/or very dark surroundings. Oftentimes, there is no warning of glaucoma because the effect happens so gradually. Because of this, it’s imperative that you have eye examinations regularly. If left untreated, glaucoma can lead to blindness, but with treatment, vision loss can be slowed down or it can even be prevented.
- Cataracts. This is a common age-related eye illness. It is caused by aging and changes in the lens tissue. Sometimes it’s inherited, and sometimes it’s due to other diseases such as diabetes. Cataracts blur your vision and everything tends to look cloudy or foggy. It can also be characterized as night blindness because as cataracts worsen, the retina receives less light. On the upside, surgery can restore all of your vision.
Age-Related Macular degeneration. This is probably the most difficult eye illness to deal with because you lose your middle vision and you won’t get it back. Treatment is only directed at preserving your peripheral vision. No one knows what causes AMD, but some believe it could be related to high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, or it may be inherited. If only one eye is affected, be grateful. Also, do whatever it takes to preserve your one remaining good eye. Believe me, I’d rather lose my peripheral vision and keep my middle vision any day. For AMD you’ll have to see the doctor every four months. She will look for bleeding in your affected eye, and check the health of your good eye. You will also have to take vitamins and some minerals to keep your remaining eye healthy, plus the peripheral vision of both eyes. Treatment varies in terms of eye health. One patient required regular injections on her good eye. However, she decided to stop the injections, and one day she lost her middle vision on her second eye. So, see a good doctor and follow orders. ), I had eight injections on my right eye, then suddenly my doctor noticed my eyes were strong. A friend told me that Lutein helps a lot, and I asked for a prescription, which my doctor gave me. She prescribed it once a day, but I took it twice a day. When she found out, she was good with that because it obviously helped my other eye.
What you can do now
Remember, with age our skin wrinkles, our chins double, and our eyes get compromised -- all when we turn 60. There is a lot we can do while still young to protect our eyes when we age. For instance, you can:
- Wear sunglasses. While your eyes are still good, wear sunglasses on sunny summer days. Use lenses that block both UVB and UVA light.
- Choose brown or yellow-brown lenses if you have diabetic retinopathy or macular degeneration, as these hues enhance contrast.
- Eat healthily.
- Take vegetables and fruits from five to nine times a day, experts suggest.
- Look for foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, minerals, and lutein.
- Remember that most antioxidants are found in dark green and brightly hued veggies and fruits. Antioxidants reduce damage caused by free radicals, which lead to age-related eye illnesses.
- You only have one retina per eye and if you lose it, goodbye middle vision. So go heavy on the carotenoids (lutein and zeaxanthin) which are found in broccoli, kale, peas, spinach, and sweet corn, because they protect your retina.
- Carrots and squash are rich in vitamin A, which keeps your vision healthy.
- Watch your habits. Don’t smoke or vape. Exercise regularly, and sleep well.
- Talk to your eye doctor especially if you’re worried. Talk of any family history of eye problems, your health problems, and your medications, including your supplements. Also, you are never too young for regular eye exams. Better safe than sorry.
There are so many eye illnesses that you can get with age, and this is just a shortened list of them. The important thing is for you to take care of your eyes while you’re young by adopting a healthy diet and healthy habits.
Mona Sabalones Gonzalez (author) from Philippines on September 12, 2021:
I'm delighted to know that your vision is near normal, because your eyes enable you to write your articles and you always find such a wide variety of songs that are beautiful to listen to. I still have one good eye myself, and I passed the 5 year time limit when the second eye should also get macular degeneration. As a result, I'm very grateful.
Mona Sabalones Gonzalez (author) from Philippines on September 12, 2021:
Thank you Ms. Dora for your very kind words. Please take care of your lovely, beautiful eyes:):):)
FlourishAnyway from USA on July 19, 2021:
Having had vision issues I can appreciate its importance. Life without it is significantly lonelier. Thank goodness my vision returned to near normal. I hope your vision remains stable.
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on July 19, 2021:
This is a very helpful article on eye disorders and the importance of eye health. Thanks for the warnings. Good information.