Age-related Vision and Eye Changes

The structures of the eye and the processes of vision begin to undergo changes in the late fourth or early fifth decade of life. By age 65, 50 percent of people have vision impairments.

By age 80, more than 90 percent of people have vision impairments. Treatment can mitigate some of these changes, such as presbyopia and cataract.

Some conditions that affect the eye and vision develop secondary to other health conditions that are more prevalent in older people, such as diabetes, hypertension, and kidney disease, all of which can cause retinopathy. Much loss of vision related to aging is progressive and permanent, interfering with activities such as driving, reading and other close work, and seeing at night.

However, most people retain the ability to see well enough to function in everyday activities.

Adaptations to accommodate the changes of the eye and vision with aging are numerous and can help maintain a desirable quality of life for many people. Corrective lenses or reading glasses are effective for presbyopia.

Surgery can improve vision impairments such as cataract (cataract extraction and lens replacement), corneal damage (corneal reshaping or corneal transplantation), and ptosis and ectropion (blepharoplasty).

Magnifiers for reading and close work, adjustments on televisions and computers to enlarge screen images, voice-activated telephone dialers, highintensity light sources, and screen readers with voice output are among the devices available to accommodate low vision.

Eye Changes of Aging and Their Effects on Vision

Eye Changes of Aging and Their Effects on Vision
Physical ChangeResulting Health ConditionEffect on Eyes or Vision
Death of cones in the maculaage-related macular degeneration (armd)Diminished visual acuity in the center of vision
White rim around the corneaArcus senilisNone
Lens cloudiness and discolorationcataractBlurred or hazy vision; faded colors; progressive loss of vision
“Stroke” of the optic nerve that interrupts the flow of bloodischemic optic neuropathyDiminished visual acuity; decreased visual field; progressive loss of vision
Slowed chemical reactions in the rodsnight blindnessDiminished visual acuity in low-light circumstances
Liquefaction of the vitreous humorvitreous detachmentfloaters
Loss of lens flexibilitypresbyopiaDiminished ability to focus on near objects
Atrophy (weakening) of the eyelid muscles and tissues, shifting of the orbital fat padsptosisectropionPartial occlusion of visual field; can cause conjunctivitiskeratitiscorneal injury


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