AGE AND YOUR VISION
Learn how your age can affect your vision
When you consider that 80 percent of the information we absorb on a daily basis is through our eyes and one in two of us suffers from vision problems, it becomes clear that looking after our eyes should be a top priority.
Eyes are our windows to the world. We’re susceptible to some common vision problems during early childhood but of course adulthood and ageing can lead to other issues.
Vision issues occur due to a combination of hereditary and environmental factors. There are ways to correct these problems during the different stages of our lives, including wearing prescription glasses and taking preventative measures.
Vision changes as we age, so here are a few common issues we face at different ages.
Vision Problems for Children (0-12 years old)
A baby’s vision develops rapidly after birth. After six weeks, the child’s vision is still underdeveloped but they should be able to recognise their parents. Premature babies may take a little longer for their vision to develop but will catch up quite quickly, if there is no other complication with their eyes. At 6 months the baby’s visual system is fully developed and they can see as clearly as an adult with normal vision.
As well as regular checkups from a doctor, optometrists recommend that a child has an eye examination six months after birth. This checkup assesses things like whether they’re able to accurately follow objects, for instance. They should be screened for squint (turned eyes also known as strabismus) as well.. If a doctor suspects anything during a routine check-up before the six-month appointment, it’s likely they’ll refer your child to an optometrist or, if needed, a paediatric ophthalmologist.
It’s also recommended that parents should be vigilant, ensuring they’re protecting their child from UV rays throughout their childhood. UV exposure is cumulative and can cause damage to the eyes over time. If there are any concerns about vision development then it is strongly recommended that a paediatric optometrist’s advice is sought. Even though the child cannot read letters on the chart there are other ways to assess vision with specialised tests.
Common Vision Problems for Children
What is it? Also known as long-sightedness happens when light rays entering the eye focus behind the retina, rather than directly on it. The light literally falls too 'long' to focus clearly, thus the name . High levels of hyperopia can be associated with strabismus / turned eyes. If left uncorrected high level of hyperoia in children can lead to amblyopia or lazy eye.
Treatment: This is usually treated with prescription glasses or contact lenses.
What is it? Another common condition in children, short-sightedness can start to be noticeable between five to 10 years of age. Light rays entering the eye focus in front of the retina, rather than directly on it. The light literally falls too 'short' to focus clearly, thus the name.
Treatment: This is easily treated with prescription glasses or contact lenses.
What is it? Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the clear fleshy layer that sits on top of the 'white' of the eye, it causes redness to the eye. If conjunctivitis can be bacterial or viral and can be easily spread to other members of the family.
Treatment: See your optometrist.
Less-common Vision Problems for Children
What is it? Strabismus is often referred to as “turned eyes”, "cross-eyes" or even a "wandering eye". Instead of being aligned and looking at an object together, one or both eyes may be pointing inwards or outwards.
Treatment: Prescription glasses, orthoptic treatments, vision therapy and for rare cases surgical.
Symptoms: A common condition where the vision in one eye develops less than expected. This could be caused by many factors - possibly the most common being a high prescription in one eye only. As the other eye is normal the child does not show any particular signs unless the good eye is covered. The under-developed vision is often referred to as a “lazy eye”.
Treatment: Prescription glasses, vision therapy, patching. If not treated early, the development of the vision in that eye can slow or stop altogether.
Vision Problems for Teenagers and Young Adults (13 to 39 years old)
Whilst the visual system (the brain & the eyes) develops during the first 6 months, the growth of the eye usually occurs between the first year of age to 18 years old. It is common for myopia or short-sightedness can develop during this time. This is often caused by the eyeball growing longer making the light rays focus in front of the retina so so distance vision becomes blurry (note: the eye will not appear large to parents as the increase in size might only be a fraction of a mm). Myopia can typically commence or increase during puberty. In recent years myopia development in young adults 18 - 25 years old has become more common.
Issues with accommodation (the eye's focusing system) have also increased among the 20 - 35 age group, with the use of smartphones and other digital devices highlighting the problem.
If there is any change in vision, an eye test with an optometrist is recommended. Following the diagnosis of myopia or other vision issues and the prescribing of glasses — regular checkups should be arranged to keep track of any changes.
Children should be vigilant when doing near work. They should take regular breaks from prolonged near work such as looking at computer and TV screens. They should also wear protective lenses to prevent harmful UV rays from the sun from damaging the eyes when necessary.
As we grow older, our activities change, but we may still suffer from similar vision problems, just with a different root cause. Working in front of a computer screen all day or working outdoors can also have a negative impact on our vision.
Common vision problems for teenagers and young adults
Symptoms: Astigmatism is a common condition where the shape of the cornea (the clear window above the coloured iris of the eye) is shaped more like a rugby ball than a soccer ball. This causes blurred vision and can occur along with long or short-sightedness.
Treatment: Prescription glasses or contact lenses are the best treatment options.
Computer Vision Syndrome or CVS
Symptoms: CVS causes eye fatigue or strain due to working on digital screens. CVS is often associated with accommodation issues and the close working distance people adopt when using devices like smartphones
Treatment: Glasses, plus sometimes special lenses that filter blue light can help by increasing screen contrast.
Exposure to UV light
Symptoms: Active teens or adults may be exposed to harmful UV rays, which can damage the eyes and cause discomfort and over the long term even damage to the skin and tissues on the front of the eye
Vision Problems for Older Adults (40-50 years old)
No two people have the same eyesight, so it’s recommended that all adults have regular eye examinations (every two years is a good benchmark). Around 40 years of age almost everyone will have signs of presbyopia, a change that means our reading vision decreases over time. It’s also recommended to see and optometrist for advice about your vision needs for certain sports.
Common Eyecare Vision Problems for Adults
Symptoms: Difficulty focusing on things up close (smartphone, newspaper, books...). The person finds themselves holding material further and further away in order to see it clearly. Presbyopia is the most common eye concern as it develops in everyone usually between 40-50 years of age.
Treatment: Progressive lenses, sometimes called 'multi-focals' are the best, non-invasive solution available.
Vision Problems For People Over 50
As the eye ages, the risk of eye diseases increases. Older adults should always be vigilant with their vision by having regular eye examinations and responding to any changes in their vision immediately by seeking the advice of their optometrist.
Common Vision Problems for Over 50s
Symptoms: A clouding of the small 'crystalline lens' that sits behind the coloured iris, It occurs over time and can appear in one or both eyes. Many describe it like looking through a fog- fine details and the richness of colours can be diminished.
Treatment: At first, glasses can improve vision but as cataract develops and makes vision more difficult, surgery is usually recommended. Cataracts surgery removes the cloudy lens of the eye and replaces it with a new, clear artificial one, these are known as IOLs (intraocular lenses). Cataract surgery is the most common surgery performed on the eye today.
Age-related Macular Degeneration or AMD
Symptoms: AMD leads to vision loss and along the way causes blurry and distorted central vision so details at any distance cannot be seen. Central vision refers to the macula your clearest point of vision.
Treatment: Assessment by your optometrist and a retinal specialist eye surgeon is needed to manage this complex eye condition. Dry AMD is difficult to treat, but must be monitored regularly by an ophthalmologist and your optometrist. Dietary supplements identified during the AREDS study may help to slow down the progression. Wet AMD needs medical treatment, several new types have emerged in recent years, as well as constant monitoring by your optometrist.
Symptoms: Glaucoma is a condition that causes, in most cases, a higher than expected pressure in the eye. If left untreated it can, over years lead to blindness.
Treatment: There are medications and if needed surgical options to treat glaucoma depending on the type and degree of the disease.
Is your age affecting your vision?
Visit your nearest optometrist for a comprehensive eye test today