As we age, it’s inevitable that our ability to see clearly will also change. Some of these changes, such as needing glasses to read or having cataracts, are commonly recognized. Others are more subtle and can cause potentially greater harm to vision.
• Presbyopia – Sometime after the age of 40, most of us find that the print on things we’re reading suddenly seems smaller. We may have headaches and tired or strained eyes. These are the symptoms of presbyopia, which is the inability to focus on objects that are close to us. This happens because the lens inside the eye becomes harder and loses some of its ability to change shape as we age. Initially, reading glasses or “cheaters” should be enough to fix the problem. Surgery such as LASIK can correct one eye for close vision while leaving the other eye focused for distance. After age 50, presbyopia worsens and you may find yourself needing multiple strength readers for different situations.
• Floaters – These are tiny specks or “cobwebs” that float through your vision. They may be more noticeable in bright light. Floaters can be a normal part of aging. But a sudden flurry of floaters can be a sign that something serious is going wrong in your eye, including a retinal detachment. If you suddenly see a lot of floaters, or have flashes of light in one eye, see your eye doctor right away.
• Cataracts – Cataracts are the result of the lens inside the eye becoming cloudy. They can cause blurred or hazy vision that gets worse over time. Some cataracts stay small, while others become large enough to reduce your vision. Cataracts are so common among people over age 65 that they are now considered a normal part of aging, but it is also possible for cataracts to develop at a much younger age.
Cataract surgery is available to remove the cloudy lens and replace it with a clear lens. It’s important to discuss this procedure with your eye doctor early on to prevent the cataracts from causing other problems with your vision. Some replacement lenses have limited ability to change focus.