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After the age of 40, you might begin to notice changes in your vision. One of the most common problems is being able to read comfortably and do close work. This normal change in the eye's ability to focus, called presbyopia, will develop as you continue to age.

At first, you may have to hold reading material farther away to see it clearly. Newspaper text, for example, may appear blurred especially under poor or dim lighting. If you are short-sighted, you might find you have to remove your glasses to see up close. This may require eyeglass prescription bifocal or multifocal lenses. Fortunately, people with presbyopia today have many options to correct their vision.

Eye health problems may also occur during this period, and whether or not a need for prescription lenses is evident, you should see your optometrist every two years for a comprehensive eye examination.

If any of the following conditions exist, those over 40 may be particularly at risk for the development of an eye or vision problem:

  • A family history of glaucoma or macular degeneration.
  • High cholesterol, thyroid problem, anxiety or depression, arthritis, general medications.
  • Diabetes or high blood pressure.
  • Stressful work environment or eye-hazardous occupations.

How Vision Changes as you Age

Your eyes are part of your body and will change over time. Eye changes that take place at this time can result in noticeable differences in how well you see. Although people differ in symptoms and vision problems, the following are common age-related vision changes:

  • Problems with reading and doing close work may be evident. As the lens in your eye becomes less flexible with time, printed material is less clear than before. As a result, the eye has greater difficulty now in focusing on near objects than when you were younger.
  • As you age, the need for more light will become apparent. Brighter lights around your work area or reading chair can make reading and work tasks much easier.
  • During this period, changes in the eye's lens tend to dissipate light entering the eye causing it not to fall properly on the retina. This leads to experiencing more glare, and the oncoming glare from headlights at night - or from the reflected sun in the day - can make driving difficult.
  • The irritation and dryness you might feel in your eyes at this time is due to diminished tear production as you age. Women after menopause particularly suffer from this condition and tear supplements will become necessary to replenish the supply.

Persons suffering from loss of focusing ability for near vision, due to age, have several options available to regain clear near vision:

Through your 50s and beyond, the condition is likely to worsen. But around age 60, the changes should stop and new prescriptions will be less frequent. Despite this, most individuals should benefit from today's technology and enjoy comfortable near vision for all their lifestyle needs.

Serious Eye Health Problems

During this period, individuals run the risk of developing serious eye and vision problems. If you experience any of the following, you may have early warning signs of a serious vision disorder problem.

  • Floaters and Flashes - From time to time, you may see spots or floaters in your eyes. These are shadowy images of particles floating in the fluid that fills the inside of the eye. Although a bother, they are usually harmless and do not put vision at risk as they are a natural part of the eye's aging process. However, should they suddenly increase and be accompanied by bright, flashing lights, they could be a warning sign of retinal detachment. And this should receive immediate treatment to prevent serious loss of vision.
  • Fluctuating Vision - If you experience frequent alternating changes in good and bad vision, it may be a sign of diabetes or hypertension (high blood pressure). These conditions can damage tiny blood vessels in the retina and cause loss of vision that is sometimes permanent.
  • Distorted images - If straight lines become distorted or wavy or a blind spot appears in the center of your vision, you may be exhibiting signs of age-related macular degeneration, also known as AMD. The disorder affects the macula, which is the part of the retina responsible for central vision, hence the blind spot right in the middle of your field of vision.
  • Loss of Side Vision - If you appear to be losing peripheral or side vision, it may be a sign of glaucoma. This disorder results from a damaged optic nerve that no longer transmits all visual images to the brain. Very often there are no symptoms until the damage has started.

It cannot be emphasized enough that regular eye examinations by an optometrist can result in early diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases, which can help you protect and preserve good vision throughout life.

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