When reaching your forties and having had twenty-twenty vision all your life, you’ll probably be experiencing vision problems for the first time. You might not be able to read that fine text as easily as before and your night vision isn’t as sharp as it used to be. “These are sure signs of the need for regular eye examinations”, says Rudine Diedericks, senior optometrist from Mellins i.Style.
Apart from examining the quality of your vision or whether you need prescription lenses or contact lenses, an optometrist also checks for early signs of eye conditions, abnormalities and systemic diseases that can affect your vision. Diseases like glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy don’t show symptoms in their early stages and if diagnosed early, can be treated to prevent impairment or vision loss. Signs of other eye-related conditions which are normally older people’s diseases, such as glaucoma and macular degeneration can however start at a younger age. “These will be detected at an early stage during regular eye examinations.”, says Rudine.
Declining reading vision
As you reach your forties, you’ll start finding it increasingly difficult to read fine text or to focus on objects up close. You’ll also need more light when reading. With aging, the lens inside the eye becomes less flexible, losing its ability to change shape. This change is known as presbyopia.
What to do
See your optometrist for an eye examination. Depending on your prescription, you may be able to get away with inexpensive reading glasses. Alternatively you’ll need customised prescription lenses to match the power in each eye. In most cases the prescription between the two eyes also differs and ‘ready-made readers’ will be compromising quality of vision. Progressive spectacle lenses or multifocal contact lenses will enable you to see at all distances.
Furthermore, with prescription lenses the optical centre of the lens is directly over the centre of the pupil. Ready-made readers can’t offer this and if the power of a reader is high and the lenses are slightly off centre, it can result in eyestrain.
Some people also have astigmatism and readers won’t help as much as prescription lenses.
During your fifties and beyond, presbyopia will progress. It is therefore important to have an eye test done at least once every two years. If you have a family history of eye diseases, your optometrist will advise more frequent visits.
Poor night vision
Reduced night vision is another common symptom of aging eyes. As the photo receptors in the eyes age over time, it will result in a reduced ability to see clearly in dark situations, such as driving at night. Zeiss manufactures lenses that will greatly assist and improve your night vision.
What to do
See your optometrist for an eye examination to ensure your glasses or contact lens prescription is up to date. With Zeiss’ i.Scription lenses you can expect up to 30% improvement in vision at night or in low light. If you drive often and want to feel safer, you can also opt for Zeiss DriveSafe lenses to help reduce the blinding effects of glare and sharpen vision in low-light conditions. These lenses are everyday lenses specifically designed to improve drivers’ vision, focus and comfort on the road. The lenses provide up to 43% larger mid-distance viewing zone to quickly refocus between the road, dashboard and mirrors.
When things start to look blurry or less colourful, you might have a cataract. A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens. Although you will generally start to experience some eye changes from around the age of 40, it is however only in later years that you might start to develop cataracts.
What to do
One leading cause that you can control is spending too much time in the sun without appropriate protection from ultraviolet (UV) rays. Always choose sunglasses with UV400 protection which effectively blocks 99-100% UV radiation. For spectacles, Zeiss is currently the only manufacturer of spectacle lenses that effectively blocks UV rays up to 400 nm in clear lenses.
Also known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), this condition is one of the leading causes of vision loss. It is the result of long term damage to the macula, a small spot near the centre of the retina that provides sharp, central vision. Central vision begins to get blurry gradually as the macula breaks down. AMD is also thought to be caused by long-term exposure to ‘blue light’ or HEV radiation. People with low levels of vitamin C and other antioxidants are more likely to suffer from retinal damage and AMD from HEV radiation. When left untreated, it will lead to vision loss.
What to do
There are certain multi-vitamins available so consult with your optometrist for recommendations. A diet rich in antioxidants will also be beneficial. Always wear sunglasses with UV protection and protect your eyes when looking at digital screens for extended periods. See your optometrist at least once every second year, or more regularly if you have a family history of eye diseases.
This condition occurs when fluid builds up in the eye which increases pressure in the eye and damages the optic nerve. The optic nerve transfers visual information from the retina to the brain. There are usually no early symptoms or pain. In its most prevalent form, vision loss is slow and progressive. It typically affects peripheral vision first and eventually central vision is lost. If left untreated, it can lead to permanent vision loss. Although Glaucoma is considered to be hereditary, it mostly only occurs later in life. People who are 40 years or older with a family history of glaucoma, have diabetes or who are from certain ethnic groups, have an increased risk. Children can also suffer from glaucoma and should be checked yearly.
What to do
Go for regular eye examinations as your optometrist will measure your eye pressure and refer you to an ophthalmologist if necessary. If diagnosed early, glaucoma is treated by lowering your eye pressure. Depending on your situation, treatment usually includes prescription eye drops. Over 40 year olds should have an eye examination at least every two years. As soon as you turn 60, or are 40 years or older and have a family history of glaucoma, annual eye examinations are recommended.
This is a chronic eye condition which occurs when the body produces insufficient tears or moisture. This keeps the eyes nourished, oxygenated and reduces the risk of eye infections. As dry eyes are part of the natural aging process, it’s often a complaint of people in their forties or older. Hormonal changes in women as a result of menopause can also lead to a lack of tear fluid being produced. Itchy eyes, a burning sensation in the eyes or the feeling as though there is something in the eye, are signs that you might be suffering from dry eyes.
Other factors that can aggravate dry eyes include wearing contact lenses for longer periods than prescribed, toxins in the air, airborne allergens, dry weather conditions, dust and wind, certain prescription medication, health complications such as diabetes, thyroid problems and infections on the surface of the eyes. Failing to blink regularly (for instance when staring at computer or digital screens for too long) is another cause of dry eyes.
What to do
- Include Omega-3 in your diet by eating foods rich in essential fatty acids such as fish, avocado and flaxseeds. This nutrient lubricates chronic dry eyes and helps reduce the severity of dry eyes, maintains the nervous system and plays an important role in reducing the problem.
- Blink more and use eye drops to keep your eyes moist and reduce dryness and irritation. When you’re working at a computer or on a tablet, you are less likely to blink. If your eyes become dry and blinking more doesn’t offer relief, especially when wearing contact lenses, use eye drops recommended by your optometrist or general practitioner.
- Reduce the brightness options on your digital screens.
- Wear UV-protective sunglasses with wraparound lenses and frames to avoid exposing eyes to wind and dust particles.
How often should you go for an eye test?
“Optometrists recommend that people between the ages of 16 and 59 should have an eye test and examination at least once every two years”, advises Rudine. Annual eye examinations are however recommended for children younger than 16, adults over 60 and if you are older than 40 with a family history of glaucoma, diabetes or ocular hypertension.