As we age and our body begins to change, it’s normal for our eyesight and vision to be impacted and experience changes. This is due to a combination of genetics, natural deterioration, diet and lifestyle choices such as smoking. Common changes people may experience include difficulty seeing up close, difficulty telling colours apart (e.g., blue from black) or needing more time when transitioning between different levels of light. Usually, these alterations won't cause any severe harm to your sight. However, it can sometimes be a sign of something more serious. Your potential risk of getting certain eye diseases and conditions increases with age, and some changes could be a big issue for your vision.
Common issues with sight as you age
As years pass, the lenses of the eyes become less elastic and it becomes more challenging to focus on nearby objects. This is known as presbyopia, the loss of ability to see close objects or small print, and can give you headaches or tired eyes. Having your eyes tested regularly and using reading glasses or bifocals can help. This explains sometime between their mid-40s and 50s.
Floaters and flashers
Floaters are specks that float across the field of vision, often in bright rooms or outdoors. They can indicate eye problems like retinal detachment, so if there's a sudden change, see an eye doctor immediately.
Part of the ageing process is dry eyes, a common symptom of menopause. Tears protect the eye's transparent cornea, but inflammation due to years of sun exposure, windburn, high blood pressure, and stress can result in tear production being reduced. Our tear glands can’t make enough tears or produce poor quality tears which can lead to many people over 50 start feeling stinging or burning in their eyes.
Watery eyes can come from being too responsive to wind, light, or temperature changes. Keeping your peepers safe by shielding them or wearing sunglasses might help ease the issue. However, it may also be a symptom of a more complicated issue such as an eye infection or obstructed tear ducts. People with dry eyes may find they’re too quick to cry since dry eyes are easily troubled.
Eye diseases and disorders common in ageing adults
Glaucoma can be hereditary. High pressure within the eye can lead to this condition, which if left untreated, can result in blindness and vision loss. Most people with glaucoma don’t experience any initial pain or discomfort. To help protect your eyesight, have a yearly dilated eye exam. Glaucoma can be managed with prescription eye drops, laser techniques, or surgery.
A cataract is a clouding of the eye's lens, creating blurred or hazy vision. While some of these remain small and do not affect your vision much, others grow bigger and limit sight. The best way to treat cataracts is through surgery and it's a safe and common procedure. If you have a cataract, your ophthalmologist will keep an eye out for changes in size over time and determine if surgery would be beneficial.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
The macula is the tiny central part of the retina that’s made up of millions of nerve cells (cones) which are sensitive to light. It's responsible for highly detailed vision like recognising faces and reading. Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is distinguished by the loss of these cells, leading to either blurry or distorted central vision. AMD doesn’t result in total blindness, though if it has advanced there is no available treatment. However, for early stages, nutritional supplements can be helpful. People with a more serious form of AMD might gain from laser treatments or injections of medication.
Diabetic retinopathy may occur as a complication of diabetes. In the beginning stages, the small blood vessels in the retina might not function properly, leading to blurry vision or no symptoms. As the disease progresses, you might spot floaters, patches of blindness or haziness when you look at objects. Eventually, new blood vessels will form and seep into the middle of the eye, potentially leading to severe vision loss and even total blindness.
Eyelid problems are a common symptom of various diseases or conditions. The eyelids act as a barrier to the eye. Eyelids spread tears and lessen the amount of light that reaches the eyes. Pain, itching, watery eyes and tenderness to light might be experienced when an issue arises with the eyelids. Other symptoms include drooping lids (ptosis), blinking spasms (blepharospasm) or reddened skin near the eyelashes (blepharitis). In many cases, through medication or surgery can remedy these issues.
How can you maintain healthy eyes:
Wear UV-blocking sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat when outdoors.
Quit smoking, which increases the risk of eye diseases.
Eat nutritious foods that support eye health.
Be physically active and maintain a healthy weight.
Reduce high blood pressure, which can contribute to eye problems.
Control diabetes to maintain eye health.
Reduce eye strain by taking breaks every 20 minutes when focused on a single object.
What can you eat to improve eye health?
Eating certain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in your diet can have beneficial effects on your sight and eye health. Studies show that lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin C, vitamin E and zinc help reduce the chances of developing serious eye conditions like age-related macular degeneration or cataracts. All these essential nutrients can be found in green leafy veggies, fruits, nuts and many other food items.
Lutein & Zeaxanthin
Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids, a type of pigment that can be found in many fruits and vegetables, making them appear yellow to reddish. Among all the dietary carotenoids, only lutein and zeaxanthin accumulate in the retina - particularly in the macula region at the back of the eye. The macula is crucial for sight. Protecting the eyes from damaging free radicals, lutein and zeaxanthin work as antioxidants in this area. Research suggests that a decrease in these nutrients over time can harm eye health PMID: 26798505.
Lutein and zeaxanthin can be found in dark green, leafy vegetables, as well as yellow/orange fruits and vegetables. To get the most out of these nutrients, it's important to include healthy fats, such as extra virgin olive oil. Egg yolk is the better source since it contains fat which makes it more easily absorbed by the body.
Eating a diet rich in these carotenoids can significantly lower the chances of creating new cataracts by protecting the cells of the eyes from free radicals PMID: 23698168
Studies show that vitamin C may reduce the chance of developing cataracts and, when taken with other important nutrients, can slow down the advancement of age-related macular degeneration and visual clarity reduction. To get your daily dose of this nutrient, add oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, papaya, green peppers and tomatoes to your meals.
The intake of Vitamin E helps guard cells in our eyes from the damaging effects of free radicals. Sources of this valuable vitamin come from vegetable oils (e.g., safflower and corn), nuts, wheat germ and sweet potatoes
Essential fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are paramount for visual growth and eye health. Investigating neonates and full-term babies has demonstrated that consuming the right amount of omega-3s is imperative for normal vision development. Salmon, tuna, and other fish caught in cold waters supply the greatest amounts of omega-3s, decreasing inflammation, boosting tear production, and safeguarding the oil-filled external layer of the eyes.
Zinc is necessary for transporting vitamin A from the liver to the retina, and producing melanin to protect their eyes. If you lack adequate zinc in your diet, you may experience blurry vision or poor night vision, and in some cases, cataracts. You can get your recommended daily dose of zinc through natural sources such as red meat, oysters, shellfish, nuts, and seeds.
If you are concerned about your vision and not eating enough oily fish and eating the rainbow of fruit and vegetables, you can supplement with Wiley’s Supplement, Bold Vision can support eye health and vision as it contains
20mg of Lutein
4mg of Zeaxanthin
500mg Omega-7 from sustainably sourced (MSC-certified) Wild Alaskan fish oil
Anthocyanins from 57mg European Bilberry extract
20mg Vitamin E
2mg Astaxanthin from algae
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