Comedian George Burns once said, “You can't help getting older, but you don't have to get old.” That includes “giving in” to many of the health problems — such as eye and vision issues — that can plague us as we get older.
As a top ophthalmologist in Hialeah, Florida, Rodrigo Belalcazar, MD, of Advanced Eye Center helps patients navigate age-related vision changes. In this blog, he discusses five of the most common eye-related issues you might encounter as you age.
1. You might have trouble seeing at night
Most people know they'll probably have trouble reading or performing close-up tasks. That’s a condition called presbyopia, and typically, symptoms begin in your 40s or 50s. What a lot of older people don’t know is that once they reach their 50s or 60s, they might start having problems seeing at night, too.
Researchers think problems with night vision probably have to do with changes in the eye’s rod cells, which are special cells that help us see in low-light conditions, such as at night or when it's cloudy. Limiting nighttime driving might be a good idea, because about 20% of all traffic accidents involve someone age 65 or older.
2. Your eyes might feel dry
As we age, our eyes can produce less lubricating tears, which can lead to sensations of dryness or grittiness, along with sensitivity to light. At the same time, the quality of tears can diminish, which can make it easier for tears to evaporate from the surface of your eyes.
The good news is, there are plenty of products that can help, including both over-the-counter and prescription products. Dr. Belalcazar can recommend products that are ideal for your dry eye symptoms, and he can also determine if an underlying eye problem is making your symptoms worse.
3. Your risk of developing certain eye diseases increases
As you age, changes in your eyes can lead to an increased risk of developing eye diseases and conditions, including:
- Cataracts, which is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens
- Glaucoma, which is a group of conditions that cause vision loss and blindness
- Age-related macular degeneration, which is a condition that leads to loss of central vision
Many age-related eye issues don’t cause any noticeable symptoms at first, which means they can progress substantially and you may not know it. Routine eye exams are the best way to monitor for early signs of these and other eye conditions, so you can begin treatment early and, ideally, limit or prevent vision loss.
4. You’ll probably have more “floaters”
Floaters are those little dots or squiggly lines that float across your field of vision, only to slip away if you try to focus on them. As we age, the gel material inside our eyes starts to clump together. These clumps cast shadows on the retina, creating what we see as floating lines or dots.
While a modest increase in floaters is usually nothing to worry about, if you have a lot of floaters or if they’re accompanied by flashes of light, it could be a sign of a serious vision problem that needs immediate attention.
5. Your eyelids can start to droop
Just like the rest of our skin, our eyelids are prone to sagging as we get older. At best, those droopy lids make us look older and more worn out than we feel. At worst, drooping — called ptosis — can interfere with vision.
Dr. Belalcazar offers treatments aimed at reducing ptosis and elevating your eyelids, so your eyes look younger and more alert. The type of treatment he recommends will depend on the amount of ptosis and other factors.
Keep your eyes healthy
It can be easy to take your eyesight for granted — until something goes wrong. Having regular comprehensive eye exams and vision checkups is the best way to spot problems early, so they can be treated as soon as possible.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends seeing your ophthalmologist about once a year once you’re in your 60s, and once every 1-2 years before that.
If it’s been a while since your last exam — or if you notice any changes in your vision — call 305-874-0115 or book an appointment online with Advanced Eye Center to get the eye care you need.