As we grow old, our eyes tend to become weak, too. And just like most other parts of the body, the eyes are mostly taken for granted and ignored. It is only when we feel some discomfort or see a problem, do we take cognizance — but, sometimes, it may be too late.
Dr P Suresh, the head of ophthalmology department at Fortis Hospital, Mulund, says the various aging changes that occur in an eye are fundamentally natural, with no serious consequences, but rarely can they affect the eyesight to a major extent.
Presbyopia usually occurs around the age of 40, when one finds it difficult to clearly see nearby objects; it is almost universal. In this condition, the fine structures and muscle that support the lens to focus on closer objects, become stiff. Due to this, the natural lens is unable to change its shape when looking for nearby objects. People begin complaining of difficulty in reading fine prints or having to keep the reading script more distant from the eyes to understand the lettering.
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“Reading glasses in the form of mono-focal, bifocal or progressive lenses are generally prescribed. There is usually a gradual increase in reading glasses number from 40 years up to 55 years, as presbyopia worsens,” says the doctor.
Another common aging change in the eyes is the cataract formation. Here, the lens loses its normal transparency and becomes opaque and cloudy. A decrease in vision can vary depending on the grade of the cataract. The doctor says surgical treatment is usually necessary except in the very early stage of the condition, where changing one’s spectacles may suffice.
Understanding dry eyes
Dry eyes are common with increasing age, as the tear production reduces. This occurs especially after menopause in women. It causes dryness, grittiness, red and tired eyes. It is easily treated with supplement teardrops/eye lubricants in the majority of individuals.
Age-related macular degeneration (retina)
“Another structure of the eye that can be affected (usually after 65) is the retina. The condition is called age-related macular degeneration (AMD), where the center portion of the retina becomes weak and thin, affecting reading vision to some degree. Rarely, AMD can result in fluid and blood accumulation in the central retina, which can affect the vision seriously.
“Currently, newer injection therapies provides hope for many patients,” says Dr Suresh.
An important disease commonly associated with aging is glaucoma. The fluid that is normally present inside the eye is in constant circulation. With age, the exit passages become stiff resulting in poor fluid drainage which further results in high eye pressure, causing glaucoma. If left untreated, it can damage eyesight.
The doctor says most of the patients are treated with eye drops with satisfactory results. A few operations may be required to control eye pressure.
“In addition to the normal wear and tear with aging, sunlight is one contributing factor that fastens the aging-related changes. Eating foods rich in antioxidants like berries, beans, roots, capsicum, etc., reduce the aging process of the retina. Using ultraviolet filter sunglasses while going out certainly reduces light-induced damage to the retina. Regular eye check-ups after the age of 40 and keeping one’s diabetes and blood pressure under control, certainly go a long way in keeping the eye in good health,” the doctor advises.
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