Eye Conditions in Older Adults

As you get older, changes begin to happen with your eyesight. Around 40, adults start to notice some age-related differences in vision like having difficulty reading or seeing things up close. This is called presbyopia and is a normal part of aging. Presbyopia is a common eye condition which can be easily corrected with a pair of reading glasses.

However, more serious eye diseases and conditions can start to happen with advancing age. Therefore, starting at age 60, it is important for older adults to have an eye exam every year by an ophthalmologist or optometrist. During the exam, your eyes will be dilated so that your doctor can look at the back of your eyes. Dilation is important since it’s the only way your doctor can diagnosis certain diseases of the eye.


Common Eye Conditions in Seniors

  • Floaters. Seeing cobwebs, specks, or strings across your field of vision are floaters. Mild floaters in vision are normal after the age of 60. Severe floaters or flashes of light can be a symptom of the vitreous gel separating from the retina which is also common and not serious. Most people will have a vitreous detachment in each eye after the age of 60. However, if you do experience sudden flashes of light or an increase in floaters contact your eye doctor immediately and don’t assume it is a vitreous detachment. Instead, this could also be a sign of a detached retina–a serious condition which can lead to vision loss.
  • Dry eye. Not producing enough tears to nourish your eyes increases as you age. Ironically, another part of dry eye is producing too many tears resulting in watery eyes or eyes that are running tears constantly. Talk to your doctor about using over-the-counter or prescription eye drops to help alleviate symptoms of dry eye.
  • Eyelid problems. This includes dryness, itching, and inflammation of the eyelid. The lid can also begin to droop interfering with vision. Warm compresses can help with some symptoms but make sure to check with your eye doctor for severe irritation or if you see any lumps or growths anywhere on the eyelid.


More Serious Eye Disorders

  • Age-related macular degeneration. AMD is a leading cause of vision loss in older adults. The disease causes damage to a part of the eye called the macula–a small spot near the center of the retina. Essential for sharp, central vision, the macular enables us to see objects that are straight ahead. There are two types of AMD: dry and wet. The dry form causes yellow deposits, called duress, in the macula. Most patients with AMD have the dry form of the disease. A small percentage may go on to develop the wet form. About 10 – 15% of people with AMD develop the wet form, however, this type accounts for the most significant vision loss from the disease.
  • Cataracts. A cataract is a cloudy area in the lens of the eye and they are very common as we age. In fact, more than half of all Americans age 80 or older either have cataracts or have had surgery to remove them. Cataracts can make your vision blurry, hazy, or less colorful. Reading can also become more difficult along with everyday activities. The good news is that surgery can remove cataracts safely and correct the vision problems which they create.
  • Glaucoma. Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that can cause vision loss and blindness by damaging a nerve in the back of your eye called the optic nerve.  Symptoms start slowly and you may not notice them. The only way to find out if you have glaucoma is to get a comprehensive dilated eye exam. There’s no cure for glaucoma, but early treatment can often stop the damage and protect your vision.




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