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How Aging Effects the Structure of the Eye

As we age, we naturally lose some of the visual abilities we had when we were younger.

  • Reduced pupil size. As we age, muscles that control our pupil size and reaction to light lose some strength. This causes the pupil to become smaller and less responsive to changes in ambient lighting. Because of these changes, people in their 60s need three times more ambient light for comfortable reading than those in their 20s. Also, seniors are more likely to be dazzled by bright sunlight and glare when emerging from a dimly lit building such as a movie theater. Eyeglasses with photochromic lenses and anti-reflective coating can help reduce this problem.

 

  • Dry eyes. As we age, our bodies produce fewer tears. This is particularly true for women after menopause. If you begin to experience burning, stinging, or other eye discomfort related to dry eyes, use artificial tears as needed throughout the day for comfort, or consult your eye doctor for other options such as prescription medications dry eye. Visit our dry eye treatment facility to discuss your options.

 

  • Loss of peripheral vision. Aging also causes a normal loss of peripheral vision, with the size of our visual field decreasing by approximately one to three degrees per decade of life. By the time you reach your 70s and 80s, you may have a peripheral visual field loss of 20 to 30 degrees. Because the loss of visual field increases the risk for automobile accidents, make sure you are more cautious when driving. To increase your range of vision, turn your head and look both ways when approaching intersections. You also can read more tips about vision, aging and driving safety.

 

  • Decreased color vision. Cells in the retina that are responsible for normal color vision decline in sensitivity as we age, causing colors to become less bright and the contrast between different colors to be less noticeable. In particular, blue colors may appear faded or “washed out.” While there is no treatment for this normal, age-related loss of color perception, you should be aware of this loss if your profession (e.g. artist, seamstress or electrician) requires fine color discrimination.

 

  • Vitreous detachment. As we age, the gel-like vitreous inside the eye begins to liquefy and pull away from the retina, causing “spots and floaters” and (sometimes) flashes of light. This condition, called vitreous detachment, is usually harmless. But floaters and flashes of light can also signal the beginning of a detached retina — a serious problem that can cause blindness if not treated immediately. If you experience flashes and floaters, see your eye doctor immediately to determine the cause.