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Vision Changes as We Age: What's Normal, What's Not?


Squinting a little more to read labels or catch that email on your phone? You're not alone. As you age, it's normal to notice changes in your vision. According to the National Eye Institute, some changes are normal, some may be cause for concern.

Normal Symptoms of Aging Eyesight

  • Lose focus, find it harder to focus vision up close.
  • Find it challenging to distinguish colors, such as blue from black, or to see where an object ends and its background begins.
  • Need more light to see well and more time to adjust to leaving a dark room and going into a brightly lit room.

If you're at this stage, there's no need to worry about anything other than thinking about getting "readers," prescription glasses or contact lenses and improving the lighting throughout your home—from the kitchen to the bathroom.

And, stay on schedule for regular dilated eye exams, every two or three years after age 50. During this exam, your doctor puts drops in your eyes to dilate, or widen, the pupils to get a clear view of what's going on inside and to look for signs of disease.

Actual vision loss is not a normal part of aging. But the risk everyone faces is that as you age, you are at higher risk of developing age-related eye conditions and diseases.

Aging-Related Eye Conditions

  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD): The leading cause of vision loss in the U.S. As many as 11 million people in the U.S. have some form of this disease and that number is expected to double to nearly 22 million by 2050. Age is a risk factor.
  • Cataract: A clouding of the lens of the eye. This is something that happens to most people if they live long enough. Fortunately, it's also a correctable condition and the surgery to implant clear lenses in your eyes has reached new heights of ease and vision correction.
  • Diabetic retinopathy: The most common cause of vision loss among people with diabetes. It affects blood vessels in the retina and can cause them to bleed or leak fluid, distorting vision.
  • Glaucoma: A group of eye diseases that gradually steals your sight without warning and often without symptoms.

Often, these diseases arrive slowly and quietly, with no warning signs or symptoms in their early stages. The only way to discover them before they cause vision loss or blindness is through that regular dilated eye exam by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.

7 Tips to Protect Your Vision Right Now

  1. Stop smoking.
  2. Maintain normal blood pressure.
  3. Control diabetes (if you have it).
  4. Wear sunglasses and a brimmed hat any time you are outside in bright sunshine.
  5. Eat a diet rich in green, leafy vegetables and fish.
  6. Wear protective eyewear when working around your house or playing sports.
  7. Be aware of eye fatigue. If you have eye strain from working at a computer or doing close work, remember the 20/20/20 rule: Look up from your work every 20 minutes at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds.