Many people notice small changes once they hit their 40s. Perhaps they can’t stay up as late as they could in their 20s without suffering the next day, or they find themselves stiff and achy after moving furniture or taking a long hike.
Such changes can be quite dramatic, but others can occur so gradually that they might not be noticed. Eyesight is one example. If you’ve never worn glasses and never had your vision tested, the concept of booking an eye appointment probably seems foreign and pointless. It certainly isn’t.
Here are some signs that your vision could be deteriorating:
- Night driving leaves you tense and exhausted. Signs are difficult to read clearly and it’s not easy to see pedestrians or animals at the side of the road.
- You develop headaches while reading.
- When using a spray product you can’t clearly see the nozzle or when tightening a screw you can’t clearly see the head and are operating by “touch.”
- You have more difficulty adjusting to lighting extremes, such as when entering a dark room from a light one.
- You notice that your vision is blurry at times.
- You sometimes trip over unseen obstacles.
What You Can’t See Can Hurt You
Obviously there are safety implications to deteriorating vision. If you can’t see pedestrians on the side of the road or at an unlighted crosswalk until your vehicle is practically on top of them, it’s easy to see how a tragedy could result.
If you are operating intricate controls and flick the wrong switch because you can’t see clearly, anything could happen.
Why Might My Eyes Change With Age?
There are several common causes of age-related vision loss. That’s why it is important to have regular physical examinations and periodic eye examinations. Causes of vision loss include:
Presbyopia: This condition, where the eye loses its ability to focus on near objects, commonly occurs around age 40. Reading glasses or prescription bifocal, trifocal or progressive lenses can correct this situation.
Glaucoma: Fluid pressures can build up within the eye, causing damage to the optic nerve. Left untreated, glaucoma can destroy a person’s peripheral or “side” vision and potentially cause blindness. Difficulty driving at night is a warning sign.
Cataracts: An estimated 23 million people ages 40 and older in the US and Canada have cataracts, a clouding of the eye’s lens that makes it difficult for light to pass through. Symptoms include blurred vision, double vision and a feeling of having a “film” over the eyes. This problem can be corrected through cataract surgery, which involves removing the clouded lens and replacing it with an artificial lens.
Macular degeneration: Another common cause of vision loss, this condition involves blurring or distortion of the central (straight ahead) part of vision because of damage to the macula. The macula is part of the retina, a tissue layer in the back of the eye that converts light into signals. These signals are then sent through the optic nerve to the brain, allowing people to see. Risk factors for macular degeneration include untreated high cholesterol, untreated high blood pressure, diabetes or smoking.
Diabetic retinopathy: Blood vessels start leaking and damage the retina.
If you have any vision symptoms such as those outlined in this article, it’s important to see your doctor and also to have your eyes examined. Since several eye conditions have no symptoms such as pain until they wreak serious damage, even people who think they have perfectly healthy “eagle” eyes should undergo periodic vision testing.