Health & Wellness / Home & Family

Eyes Over 50 – What You Need to Know

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As humans naturally age, so do parts of the body. This includes the eyes. Per Optometrists.org, the lens inside begins to harden as folks reach their 50s, resulting in changes to eye health and presbyopia (age-related farsightedness). Other age-linked issues, such as floaters, become more common as well. Floaters are spots in vision that look like black or gray specks or strings that drift across the eye. In some cases, they may indicate an underlying disease, however, they are often related to normal aging.

Yearly eye checks are a great way to monitor eye health. Any pain or changes to vision should be promptly and medically addressed. Sudden changes or conditions that are bothersome require medical intervention. This may include experiencing reduced vision or vision loss, blurred vision, seeing flashes of light, having floaters and more. WebMD explains that most floaters are small flecks of protein called collagen. As we grow older, the protein fibers that make up the vitreous (a gel-like substance that fills the eye) shrink down to little shreds that clump together. The shadows they cast on the retina are floaters. Floaters generally occur in the over 50 crowd and cause some visual disturbances. When focused on, they move around in the eye. Most often, floaters do not require medical intervention, but doctors can share tips to improve conditions and to reduce the effects on vision.

A cataract, another age-related condition, is the clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye. Proteins and fibers in the lens begin to break down, causing vision to grow hazy or cloudy. It is reminiscent of looking through a cloudy lens or a fogged-up window. Cataracts often develop over time and eventually begin to interfere with vision. Some patients report seeing “halos” around light or experience sensitivity to light. Others report double vision in a single eye. Initially, putting on better lighting or wearing eyeglasses can help. When cataracts get worse, it can make everyday tasks such as reading and driving challenging. Preventions include managing health, eating well, wearing sunglasses, not smoking, reducing alcohol use, and having regular, dilated eye examinations.

Dry eyes, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and age-related macular degeneration are other eye problems that may affect individuals over age 50 and should be medically addressed. There are two main types of eye doctors. Optometrists examine, diagnose, and treat patients’ eyes whereas ophthalmologists perform medical and surgical treatments for eye conditions. The level of education is different for the two professions. Chronic or severe vision symptoms or signs of eye conditions will usually be addressed by the latter.

It’s a good idea to make eye health the focus of over 50 health. Per the National Eye Institute, more than half of all Americans aged 80 or older either have cataracts or have had surgery to get rid of them. Thus, as folks grow older, most people will likely see both the optometrist and ophthalmologist at one point in their lives to achieve and maintain optimal eye healthcare. The great news is that surgery for cataracts is generally safe and 9 out of 10 people who get it see better afterwards. Eye doctors are experts at noticing even the slightest changes in vision, thus regular checkups are a necessity for the over 50 crowd.

This article is purely informational and is not intended as medical advice.


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