Vision Over 60

Just as our physical strength decreases with age, our eyes also exhibit an age-related decline in performance – particularly as we reach our 60s and beyond.

Some age-related eye changes, such as presbyopia, are perfectly normal and don't signify any sort of disease process. Cataracts are considered to be an age-related disease which can affect visual acuity, color vision, and peripheral vision.

Some, however, will experience more serious age-related eye diseases that have greater potential for affecting the quality of life as we age. These conditions include glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.

What you can do about age-related vision changes

A healthy diet and wise lifestyle choices – including exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, reducing stress and not smoking – are your best natural defenses against vision loss as you age. Dr. Smith recommends having an annual eye exam to identify any early signs of eye disease.

Be sure to discuss with Dr. Smith all concerns you have about your eyes and vision. Tell him about any history of eye problems in your family and any health problems you may have. Also, let Dr. Smith know about any medications you take, including non-prescription vitamins, herbs and supplements.

Cataracts — Even though cataracts are considered an age-related eye disease, they are so common among seniors that they can also be classified as a normal aging change. According to Mayo Clinic, about half of all 65-year-old Americans have some degree of cataract formation in their eyes. As you enter your 70s, the percentage is even higher. It's estimated that by 2020 more than 30 million Americans will have cataracts.

Macular DegenerationMacular degeneration (also called age-related macular degeneration or AMD) is the leading cause of blindness among American seniors. According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), macular degeneration affects more than 1.75 million people in the United States. The U.S. population is aging rapidly, and this number is expected to increase to almost three million by 2020. Currently, there is no cure for AMD, but medical treatment may slow its progression or stabilize it.

Glaucoma — Your risk of developing glaucoma increases with each decade after age 40 – from around 1% in your 40s to up to 12% in your 80s. The number of Americans with glaucoma is expected to increase by 50% (to 3.6 million) by the year 2020. If detected early enough, glaucoma can often be controlled with medical treatment or surgery and vision loss can be prevented.

Diabetic Retinopathy — According to the NEI, approximately 10.2 million Americans over age 40 are known to have diabetes. Among known diabetics over age 40, NEI estimates that 40% have some degree of diabetic retinopathy, and one of every 12 people with diabetes in this age group has advanced, vision-threatening retinopathy. Controlling the underlying diabetic condition in its early stages is the key to preventing vision loss.