You may shrug off vision problems as a normal part of the aging process. And, indeed, many people begin to experience presbyopia, or farsightedness, as they get older—which is caused by loss of elasticity in the lens of the eye. (The term presbyopia comes from the Greek word presbyteros, which means elder or senior.) It often comes on during middle age and becomes more common and pronounced in your 60s.
But, aside from presbyopia, experiencing vision problems as you get older isn’t “normal” or unavoidable. In fact, many of these problems can be treated (if you catch them early)—or even prevented altogether with a few simple supplements.
So, today, let’s discuss some of the most-common eye troubles you may experience and go over what you can do to avoid them…
Tips for combating common eye problems
Persistent blurry vision requires an eye exam to check for the presence of dryness of the cornea, cataracts, or abnormal blood vessels in the retina, which may be associated with diabetes or high blood pressure. If everything looks normal in the exam, you may just need a new eyeglass prescription.
Double vision may also be caused by dryness. But cataracts is actually the leading cause of double vision in older adults—which can cloud the lens of the eye.
Weak eye muscles can also cause double vision, especially if it disappears when you close one eye. That’s because the six ocular muscles normally keep the eyes in alignment, allowing you to focus and perceive depth. However, as you grow older, these muscles can weaken just like any other muscle in your body—causing vision problems.
(Also, people who imbibe far too much alcohol [about three times the “legal limit”] lose the ability to coordinate these muscles and may suffer double vision and/or loss of depth perception. They literally become “blind drunk.”)
If you experience a sudden onset of double vision, it can be a sign of neurological damage, cerebral aneurysm, or stroke, and you should seek medical care immediately. Otherwise, a routine eye exam can help determine the root cause of your double vision.
Dry eyes can result from staring too long at an electronic screen (which we all seem to do nowadays). In fact, when you stare at a screen, you blink 50 percent less. So, make sure to take frequent breaks while you work or watch a screen. It should help keep your eyes moist, rested, and relaxed. If that doesn’t work and you continue to experience dry eyes every day, try using some natural “tear solution” eye drops—without artificial ingredients. I should also note that certain medications can also cause dry eyes. So make sure to speak with your doctor about the issue, if it persists.
Floaters and flashes are nothing to worry about nearly 90 percent of the time. They occur when the gel-like substance in the eye starts to breakdown. Then, as it loosens from the retina, at the back of the eye, you may see dark, floating spots, which move as your eye does. If you notice new, sudden, or large floaters (or flashes of light), seek medical care immediately. Floaters or flashes that appear suddenly can be a sign of retinal detachment.
A dark, blurry, blind spot in the center of your vision is probably not a floater—especially if it persists and stays in one spot. Instead, it could be a sign of “wet” macular degeneration, caused by abnormal blood vessels growing under the retina and leaking fluid. This condition can be treated when caught early, so make sure to seek medical advice promptly if you experience this symptom.
Loss of peripheral vision, if it comes about gradually, may indicate “open-angle” glaucoma, the most common form of the disease. The other main type—“acute angle-closure” glaucoma—is often accompanied by eye pain, blurry vision, halo around lights, and eye redness. Both conditions occur when pressure builds inside the eye and damages the optic nerve at the back. Schedule an appointment with the eye doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
If loss of peripheral vision comes on suddenly, or only on one side, it may be associated with a stroke or tumor. Seek immediate medical care in these cases.
Poor night vision may be caused by something as simple as myopia (nearsightedness), which becomes worse in the dark, as the pupil dilates to let in more light. However, cataracts can also cause poor night vision and difficulty with glare. So, if you notice you’re experiencing persistent, noticeable difficulties driving at night, make sure to get in for your annual eye exam and discuss your experience with your doctor.
Sharp eye pain that lasts for a moment then goes away typically isn’t cause for concern. However, if the pain persists, comes back frequently, or is accompanied by blurriness, discharge, or redness, I suggest you see the eye doctor.
Maintain good eyesight—naturally
The good news is, no matter what common eye problem you may be concerned about, you can maintain good eyesight at any age by getting plenty of carotenoids, such as lutein, into your diet as well as vitamins A, B, C and D—which act as “antioxidants” to protect the eyes.
As you may recall, I helped discover the role of carotenoids in foods and in human metabolism during the mid-1980s. They’re found in colorful fruits and vegetables—including sweet potatoes, carrots, dark, leafy vegetables, and tomatoes.
You can learn more about how to protect your vision at any age in the August issue of my monthly newsletter, Insiders’ Cures (“My ABCs for brain and eye health”). If you’re not yet a subscriber, now is the perfect time to get started.
“The Eyes Have It.” AARP Magazine, February-March 2020: 28 – 29.