Some problems with vision can occur at any age. Other problems are more common as we age. Knowing the warning signs of aging vision problems can help you protect your sight from permanent damage.
• Dark curtain in your vision – If you have the sensation that a dark curtain has settled across your vision, you may have a retinal detachment. The retina is the inside lining of the eye that contains the cells that convert light into electrical images for the brain. If the retina detaches from the eye, it loses its supply of blood and oxygen. The retina must be reattached within just a few hours to prevent permanent blindness.
• Floaters –The gel-like fluid inside the eye sometimes thins and separates from the retina at the back of the eye. This condition is called vitreous detachment and can cause thin strands or spots to float through your vision. Having a few floaters is normal. But if you experience a sudden storm of floaters, they could be a symptom of a more serious vision problem caused by a tear in the retina or by the retina starting to separate from the wall of the eye. This can cause permanent loss of vision. If you see a sudden flood of floaters, contact your eye doctor immediately.
• Eye pain – Sudden pain in the eye accompanied by redness, nausea, and vomiting may be symptoms that the optic nerve is being compressed. This can be caused by narrow-angle glaucoma, which is the result of a sudden build-up of pressure inside the eye. This can put pressure on the optic nerve which can cause permanent damage and blindness.
• Double vision – Double images, or “ghost” images can be caused by a variety of eye problems. If the change in vision is sudden, it may be a symptom of a serious health concern such as a stroke. If you suddenly develop double vision, see your doctor right away for an evaluation.
• Narrowed field of vision - If you find that you have lost the ability to see around the edges of your vision and can only see what is directly in front of you, you may have glaucoma, which is an increase in pressure in the eye. This can be a progressive condition that comes on slowly, or may appear suddenly. Without prompt treatment, it can lead to permanent loss of vision.
• Missing central vision – If you find you have a “hole” in the center of your vision, or if things look distorted, such as straight lines looking wavy, you may have adult macular degeneration. This is a progressive condition that can lead to blindness, however treatments are available to slow or stop the progression.
• Cloudy, blurry vision – If your vision becomes cloudy or blurry, if you see halos around lights at night, and if colors look less vivid, you may be developing cataracts. Cataracts are caused by clouding inside the lens of the eye. Surgery is available to replace the cloudy lens with a new, clear lens.
• Blurry vision in one eye – If you suddenly find that one eye is blurry, you may have a macular hole developing in that eye. The macula is a very precise spot on the retina at the back of the eye where clear, color vision comes into focus. A hole in the macular is more common after age 60 and can cause permanent loss of vision. See your eye doctor to find out about treatment options.
• Blind spots in your vision –Blind spots in your vision accompanied by floaters and blurry vision may be symptoms of diabetic retinopathy. These symptoms could be the first signs that you have diabetes, which can be life-threatening. It is very important that you have regular eye exams if you are diabetic so your eye doctor can watch for the early signs of this disease to provide treatment.
Other symptoms of age-related vision loss include needing frequent changes to your glasses prescription and feeling that you never have enough light to see clearly. You may also notice that your eyes feel dry or scratchy. This can be a symptom of dry eye syndrome, which is usually annoying but does not threaten your vision. Artificial tear drops can help ease the discomfort.
It’s important to schedule regular eye exams so your eye doctor can help watch for these and other warning signs of age-related vision problems. Be sure to see your eye doctor right away if you have any sudden changes to your vision.