No matter your age, you should be taking care of your eyes, especially if you want them to work well all through your life.
The American Optometric Association encourages this approach, advising people to beware of possible hazards to their eyes as well as taking preventive steps to make sure they and their eyes say safe over the years.
This can include seeing an optometrist on a regular basis, following their advice, and avoiding situations that can reduce your eyesight.
Of course, your eyes are going to change over the years as part of the aging process. This includes your vision as well as the actual surface of the eye. Some people may grow up being nearsighted but as they get older, this may increase. Or they may become farsighted or at least reduce some of their nearsightnedness. Or vice versa.
There’s also a misconception that our eyes don’t physically change their shape after birth, but optical professionals and others try to emphasize that our eyes do change throughout our lives, sometimes significantly, which is why it’s important to make sure you take extra good care of them and learn good habits. Some of the biggest growth happens in childhood and teens, but there’s always the possibility of different abilities and functions, from vision changes to floaters.
This is especially important for seniors, who want to make sure that their eyes are working as well as they can at this time of their life. Seniors often have some other vision challenges, like higher risk of cataracts and other age-related conditions.
Eyes and aging
WedMD said that our eyes are considered fully developed in our 20s and don’t change significantly in your 30s. But different things begin to happen in the 40s, including less easy to focus on any particular item. In many people, it also becomes harder to see something closer so people will have to hold something further out.
Or on the other end, if you already wear glasses, you may have to take them off to see something up closer. People who use computers regularly also may notice that it’s not as easy to see a particular point for a long period of time.
This lack of focus often increases gradually until about age 60.
In people’s 40s and 50s, they are more likely to need some sort of assistive technology to help their vision, such as glasses or contacts, if they haven’t needed them yet earlier in life. This can include reading glasses to make it easier to see things up close.
It’s also the time when people consider laser or refractive surgery to improve vision and not require the need for glasses.
People also may experience more sensitivity to light, different depth perception, and more ‘floaters,’ which are spots or other items in your field of vision.
In the 50s and early 60s, people may require more time for their eyes to adjust when the light intensity changes, such as moving from a dark room to a bright room.
People also may find that they need higher light levels to see well, compared to what worked for them in the past. This could mean more lamps in a home, more lights on more times of the day (even when it’s dim in the middle of the day), or more squinting.
Increasing difficulty seeing in poor light also brings some risk – it may become harder to see obstacles in one’s home in a dimmer world which could cause falling hazards. So it’s even more important for things to stay as bright as possible.
As the shape of the eye changes, contrast levels change.
Besides vision, the eyes have an increased possibility of becoming more dry, scratchy and irritated. This may only be a minor distraction but a regular visit to an optical professional can monitor it as well as give tips to keep your eyes hydrated.
The American Optometric Association said between 40s and 60s is when many eye health problems begin to be detected. Some of these, if untreated, can cause problems later in life or indicate other medical conditions, so should be checked out soon.
For instance, significant changes in vision, such as fluctuating images, may be due to high blood pressure or diabetes, which can affect the whole body. Both conditions can also affect the eyes.
This age range could also be the time to see early indicators of glaucoma and cataracts.
After childhood to around age 40, people are generally encouraged to visit an optical professional about every two years, usually for medical needs, trauma, or to adjust eyeglasses or contact lens prescriptions.
For those ages 40-64, annual visits are recommended, and maybe more often if someone is at risk. Annual visits at least are also recommended for people 64 or older, or more frequently if needed.
If you’re interested in learning more about eye care or a reminder to schedule a visit with an eye care professional, January is a good time to start.