A natural decline in vision as you age is normal. Known as presbyopia,
this condition is characterized by an inability to focus and trouble adjusting
to light changes. However, many vision problems do not discriminate based
on age. There are some
eye conditions that can appear in childhood, but risks for certain eye conditions change with age.
From childhood to adulthood, here are some vision concerns and symptoms
to watch for at every age.
Children and teenagers
The human eye is usually fully developed by the time a person reaches his
or her early 20s. Children and teenagers should have regular eye exams
to check for vision problems, including nearsightedness, farsightedness
and astigmatism. Having difficulty in school, trouble seeing to participate
in sports or other activities may be indicators of vision impairment.
It isn’t uncommon for children or teens to need prescription lenses
or for those prescriptions to change from year to year. Once we reach
early adulthood and the eyes are fully developed, vision should stabilize.
Children and teens should only wear contact lenses that are properly fitted
by an eye doctor to prevent eye infections or abrasions to the eye.
Young people who participate in sports are at a higher risk of eye injuries,
especially kids who play baseball or softball, hockey or racquet sports.
Martial arts and boxing can also put one at risk of eye injury. To prevent
serious injuries to the eye, wear eye protection while playing sports.
Adults under 40
By the time we reach early adulthood, vision shouldn’t change much.
Adults under age 40 are at lower risk of eye conditions such as cataracts,
but nobody is exempt from developing cataracts, even children and young adults.
Regular screening to check for signs of eye diseases such as glaucoma,
cataracts and diabetic retinopathy are essential to protecting vision
as you age. Regular exercise can also help promote healthy eyes by stimulating
blood circulation and preventing health risks such as diabetes, which
can lead to diabetic retinopathy.
Smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke can also increase risk of developing
cataracts and the potential for vision loss in adults with an existing
eye disease. Women who are pregnant should also avoid smoking as it puts
babies at higher risk of premature birth and retinopathy of prematurity,
which can result in permanent vision loss.
There are several eye conditions that may begin to develop after age 40.
In addition to presbyopia, which is a normal decline in vision, cataracts,
glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy may begin to become apparent. Keeping
up with routine eye exams is the best defense against permanent vision loss.
Adults with high blood pressure or diabetes may be at higher risk of developing
an eye condition. It’s important to keep your doctor informed of
any existing health concerns, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
Informing your eye doctor of your health history allows him or her to
be more aware of symptoms to watch for and to be on alert for related
Similar to younger adults, exercise is also important for middle-aged adults
for promoting blood circulation to the eyes and preventing health problems
that may result in complications with vision.
There is a difference between a minor decline in vision (such as difficulty
reading or seeing at distances) due to presbyopia and vision loss. Normal
aging should not cause vision loss. If you notice drastic changes in your
vision, see your eye doctor immediately.
Falling is a leading cause of eye injuries in older adults. If you notice
that you or a loved one is developing problems with balance or having
difficulty walking, prevent injuries to the eye by rearranging furniture
around the home to create a clear path to walk through.
A healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways you can prevent eye conditions
or vision loss at any age. Protect your eyes from injury and sun damage;
exercise regularly and avoid smoking to help keep your eyes healthy.
Eye health is just as important as your overall health. You should keep
up with regular
eye exams and screenings just as you would physical exams and checkups. Don’t
assume any vision loss is normal as you age; if you experience changes
in your vision, consult with your eye doctor as soon as possible.