Baltimore Washington Eye Center, Maryland

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Aging Eye Problems

About Aging Eye Problems
Aging eye problems are a fact of life for adults growing older just like wrinkles, slowing metabolism and graying hair. Eventually, your eyes are affected by age so it’s important to understand how your eyes change with age and what you can do to preserve your eye health and vision. Some aging eye changes and problems are expected and normal and others indicate the presence of eye diseases that need to be detected, diagnosed and treated or changes that need to be addressed to preserve vision. For these reasons, having regular eye exams at the intervals recommended by your eye doctor is key-especially after the age of 40 years old.

Beginning in your late 30’s and early 40’s, the crystalline lens in your eye loses flexibility, making it difficult to focus and read up close. Your arms seem “too short.” This condition is called presbyopia, which literally means "aging eye", and is most often treated with single vision reading glasses, progressive lenses, or bifocals depending on how you need to use your eyes for various tasks throughout the day, for work or recreation.

Dry Eye
Dry eye often develops with age and is a common problem for women during pregnancy and menopause. These hormonal changes cause changes in the eyes’ tear production. Certain medications can also cause dry eye. If you have dry eye, you may be prone to an eyelid irritation called blepharitis, a common cause of irritation or swelling of the eyelids. The cause of your dry eye, either too few tears being produced or too rapid evaporation of tears, will need to be diagnosed and then your eye doctor can prescribe a range of treatments including eye drops that add artificial tears, prescription eye drops that help you make more of your own tears called Restasis®, tiny punctal plugs to help you retain more of your own tears, anti-inflammatory eye drops and many other treatment options to provide relief for your dry eye symptoms.

Diabetic Retinopathy
People in their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s with diabetes are most at risk for this disease. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the small blood vessels inside the retina swell, leak fluid or close off completely due to damage from elevated blood sugar levels. But, you can take steps to prevent diabetic retinopathy with tight control of blood sugar, low fat diets, regular exercise and controlling blood pressure levels. It is also critical to see your eye doctor regularly for diabetic eye exams, as the vision loss from diabetic retinopathy can be slowed and often prevented with early detection, diagnosis, and treatment.

Cataracts are very common in older people. As you age, proteins in your crystalline lens begin to clump together and cause the lens to become cloudy. The less transparent lens causes blurry, cloudy or dim vision and increases glare and haloes around lights. Many people with the condition describe it as similar to looking out of a dirty windshield. Cataracts can interfere with daily activities like reading, nighttime driving, and distinguishing colors. While updating your eyeglass prescription may provide some benefit when you have early cataracts, the only really effective treatment for cataracts is cataract surgery where the cloudy lens is removed and replaced with a permanent artificial lens implant which can correct the cataract as well as nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism and even presbyopia.

Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve that damages the fibers that transmit visual information from the eye to the brain. This damage often leads to loss of “side” or peripheral vision. If left untreated, glaucoma will certainly lead to progressive vision loss and, ultimately, total blindness. Glaucoma is most common in people age 55 and older. One of the problems with glaucoma, especially the most common type of glaucoma, called chronic open-angle glaucoma, is that there are typically no symptoms in the early stages. Many people who have the disease do not know they have it. This is why it is important, especially as you get older, to have regular medical eye exams at intervals recommended by your eye doctor that depend on your risk factors, such as smoking, sleep apnea, age, diabetes, high blood pressure, and early menopause.

Floaters and Flashes
As people grow older, the gel that fills the inside of their eye, called the vitreous, starts to shrink, forming clumps and strands. These strands and clumps can appear as “floaters” that look like small specks or lines moving in your field of vision. As it shrinks, the gel can also pull away from the back wall of the eye, causing you to see “flashes” which appear as flashing lights or lightning streaks in your vision. While this is normally harmless, in some cases it can lead to retinal detachment and cause serious vision loss and even blindness. If you experience new floaters and flashes, it’s important to see your eye doctor as soon as possible, especially if you are over age 45, are nearsighted or have had eye injuries in the past.

Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
AMD is an eye disease of seniors that affects the central vision, limiting a person’s ability to read and recognize faces. This can be caused by a thinning and deterioration of the macula, which is the center of the retina, or by the growth of abnormal blood vessels beneath the retina. AMD can lead to blindness if not treated and it continues to be the leading cause of blindness in Americans over age 65. Fortunately with early detection, diagnosis and treatment, vision loss from AMD is preventable or at least manageable so that we can reduce vision loss and, in many cases, recover vision.

If you or someone you know is concerned about ageing eye problems such as presbyopia, dry eye, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, age related macular degeneration (AMD) or cataracts please call Baltimore Washington Eye Center at 800-495-3937, visit Baltimore Washington Eye Center, Google+ or

Baltimore Washington Eye Center is a leading eye care practice with office locations at 200 Hospital Drive, Suite 600, Glen Burnie, Maryland 21061, 2391 Brandermill Blvd., Suite 200, Gambrills, Maryland 21061 and Turf Valley Town Center, 11089 Resort Road, Suite 206, Ellicott City, Maryland 21042, serving the greater Baltimore and Washington, D.C. area.