Vision Changes After 40? Here’s What You Need to Know

Your late 30s to early 40s are likely to be a busy and demanding time. With work responsibilities and raising children, life is stressful enough. This is probably the last time in your life to deal with an optic condition, but unfortunately, it’s the age when most people start to experience declining vision.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) suggests everyone see an ophthalmologist for a baseline eye disease screening at age 40, even if there are no apparent problems with their vision. Eye degeneration begins gradually in childhood, but many eye diseases take time to develop into noticeable symptoms. An eye screening will give your doctor a baseline of your overall eye health, making it easier to spot the changes in the coming years.

Eye degeneration is a natural process that accelerates the older we get. Even if you’ve lived your early life with perfect vision, it’s almost inevitable you will need some type of corrective lenses to help with up-close visual tasks such as reading and surfing the web. Annual eye exams are highly recommended in the years after 40, as it’s not uncommon for middle-aged people to constantly need to change their prescription to maintain comfortable and effective vision.

Aside from run-of-the-mill vision decline, there are a few eye diseases you may want to look out for. However, even if you are genetically predisposed to have one or more of these conditions, they may not affect you until you approach middle age. In this article, we’ll cover the signs and symptoms of each one, as well as what you can do about them.

1. Cataracts

Our eyes function using a natural lens to focus light interpreted by our optic nerves. Like a camera lens, our lens must be clear to function at its best. AAO defines a cataract as “when your eye’s natural lens becomes cloudy.” This is caused by the breakdown of the proteins your lens is comprised of. Cataracts can be genetic or caused by excessive sun exposure, medical problems such as diabetes, smoking, or certain corticosteroids.

Vision with a cataract is like looking through a foggy window. Images will look hazy, and colors may be dulled. You may also become hypersensitive to light, have trouble seeing at night, and have blurry or double vision.

Treatment

Cataracts can be diagnosed by your ophthalmologist via a retinal exam, slit lamp exam, or a reaction and visual acuity test. With annual eye exams, cataracts are treatable. It is advisable to quit smoking after a cataract diagnosis, protect eyes from sun exposure, use brighter lights for reading, and always use corrective lenses.

Cataract surgery is an option for those unable to manage daily life with their symptoms. During surgery, your eye surgeon will remove your natural cloudy eye lens and replace it with an artificial lens called an intraocular lens. Discussing the risks with your surgeon before the procedure is important.

2. Presbyopia

Presbyopia is the gradual increase in difficulty seeing objects up close. Presbyopia is an entirely natural and inevitable part of aging, although it is worse in some individuals than others.

Presbyopia is yet another ailment of your eye’s lens. Because your eye’s lens is instrumental in focusing light, it must change shape to accommodate to correctly refract light from objects based on their distance from the eye. When you are young, your lens is soft and flexible, changing focus easily. However, after age 40, the lens becomes more rigid, increasing difficulty in focusing on closer objects.

Treatment

The short answer to treating natural presbyopia is that everyone will probably need reading glasses at some point in their lives. This may be an adjustment if you’ve never had them, but your eyes will thank you. Reading glasses can be bought without a prescription, but the lens strength you require may vary for each eye and should always be determined with an eye exam.

Surgery is also an answer to natural presbyopia but is unnecessary in most cases. Refractive surgery is when an eye surgeon sculpts the cornea for clear far vision and the other for clear close-up vision. Corneal inlays are a newer option, which are cornea implants that help correct presbyopia.

3. Glaucoma

Glaucoma is damage to your eye’s optic nerve, the bundle of nerves that relays visual information to your brain, due to fluid buildup in the eye. Human eyes constantly produce aqueous humor, a transparent liquid that keeps the eye round and healthy, which is also drained continuously to keep intraocular pressure at a stable level.

When fluid cannot drain effectively through the eye’s drainage angle, pressure builds within the eyes, which presses upon and damages the optic nerve. Causes and types of glaucoma vary, but some people are genetically predisposed to be sensitive to a normal intraocular pressure level.

Treatment

There are several types of glaucoma, varying in their severity of symptoms. Glaucoma can be exceedingly difficult to spot until the damage is already done, so it is vital to see your eye doctor regularly after 40 to spot even the smallest of indications. Glaucoma is most typically treated with medicated eyedrops designed to reduce intraocular eye pressure. However, laser eye surgery and operating room surgery are also effective long-term solutions.

4. Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a common ailment and the leading cause of vision decline in people over 50. It is the degeneration of vision in the central field of view while peripheral vision may still be working correctly.

AMD is a gradual degradation of the macula, the retina portion responsible for interpreting light in your central vision. You may experience blurriness, dark spots, and distorted vision with macular degeneration. There are two types of AMD, wet and dry AMD, but both are difficult to spot until one experiences blurry vision.

Treatment

As always, it is imperative to schedule annual eye doctor visits because AMD, like all eye diseases, is highly elusive until it is too late. AMD can be diagnosed through an Amsler grid test, optical coherence tomography (OCT), or fluorescein angiography administered by an eye doctor.

General healthy living can help you avoid AMD. Obesity, diets high in fat, smoking, high blood pressure, heart disease, and genetic predisposition all put you at a greater risk for developing AMD. Supplements such as Vitamin C, E, lutein, zeaxanthin, zinc, and copper have been found to slow and reduce AMD progression.

On a case-by-case basis, AMD can be improved with laser surgery or Anti-VEGF drugs. Consulting a vision rehabilitation specialist can help you work around AMD by helping you strengthen your peripheral vision through visual exercises.

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This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

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