Our bodies are constantly changing as we age, and our eyes are much the same. When we are growing up and developing, our bodies change and our eyes change the most. In adolescence our bodies change less and our eyesight tends to stabilize. However, modern day life does effect changes on our eyes, particularly if we spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen, playing video games, studying or reading books. More serious causes of changes in our eyesight may be if we develop an eye disease. Seeing an eye doctor for regular check ups every two years, and more often if we notice changes, is imperative. You may wish to check your own eyes as well by covering one eye at a time and comparing vision. Our eyes work together and may compensate one for the other, so checking each one individually is a good way to detect any changes early on. When both eyes are open it is difficult to detect any gradual changes or deterioration in our vision.
What do Changes in our Eyesight Mean?
Our eye health is vital. Changes in our eyesight can be the first signs of more sinister ill health, such as diabetes. It may also be the first signs of eye disease which cannot be cured, but can be halted with early treatment and further loss of eyesight can be prevented. Finally, a change in our eyesight may simply indicate that our eyes have changed and a new prescription is required for our glasses or contact lenses.
How Aging Affects our Eyesight
The human eye undergoes many changes as we get older. The lens of the eye loses its flexibility, restricting an older person's ability to focus on objects close up. A common sign is that we have to hold a label at arm's length to read the small print. This condition is known as presbyopia and often occurs around the age of 40. Secondly, the eye changes shape and this may affect the distance at which clear vision occurs for us. A person may become nearsighted or farsighted as they age, and this may continue to deteriorate over time. Cataracts is also considered an age-related change as they are extremely common in seniors. Nowadays cataracts can easily be corrected with modern cataract surgery. It is so common that half of over 65 year olds in the US have some degree of cataract formation in their eyes, and as you reach your 70s, the percentage is even higher. Aging also affects our pupil size. As we age the muscles that control our pupil size and how they react to light sources may lose their strength. Our pupils become less responsive to changing light conditions. These changes mean that people in their 60s need three times more ambient light for reading than the younger generations. This slower response can also mean that we are dazzled when stepping outside into bright sunlight from a darker interior or a theater for example. Eyeglasses with photo-chromatic lenses may help as they will make changes to light conditions to reduce this problem for us. After the menopause some women suffer with dry eyes and suddenly need to use eye drops or artificial tears on a regular basis. Other forms of treatment can be very effective as well. We all lose some peripheral vision as we age and by the age of 80 can have lost as much as 30% of our side vision, making driving more hazardous.
The Short Answer
To answer the question, our eyes never stop changing and as we get older those changes are usually not for the better! It is important not to assume that small changes in our eyesight can be ignored as signs of aging. It takes a professional to tell whether your changing eyesight is due to an aging lens and natural physical deterioration or a more serious eye disease such as glaucoma or macular degeneration. Regular eye checks are essential to ensure the best eye health possible for your whole life.