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The Truth About Your Eyes as You Age

Here are the changes you should know about

Close up of a woman wearing sunglasses to protect her eyes from the sun. A lake with boats is in the background

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When I was 25, I got laser eye surgery, tossed out my glasses and had a celebration for my permanent perfect vision.

I wasn't looking ahead (pun intended) to my 40s, 50s and 60s when, like most people, I'd find myself back at the optometrist with a brand new prescription. Turns out, there's little we can do to stop our eyes from aging — but there are some proactive steps we can take to prevent serious damage and to prepare our eyes for the future.

"All parts of eyes undergo changes as we age, and those changes all have an impact on our vision quality,” says Jin Gao, an optometrist at Philadelphia-based Eye Love Eyewear. “However, the rate of change can be different for each person, depending on each person's family history, lifestyle, occupation, diet and more."

But for starters, expect to have to pop on a super-trendy pair of reading glasses around the age of 40. It only gets more fun from there.

Your eyes in your 50s

Presbyopia, or the difficulty to focus on objects up close, typically hits in your early 40s and continues to advance through your 50s and beyond, says Ryan Parker, an optometrist and director of professional education at lens manufacturer Essilor in Dallas. That's because as you age, your natural defense mechanisms begin to decline. Based on your genetics and diet, this may be a good time to increase vitamin supplements for your eyes.

As you get closer to your 60s, the risk of more eye diseases increases, such as cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration and retinal detachment. Preventive measures include eating a diet filled with dark leafy greens, wearing UV-blocking sunglasses and reducing smoking, Gao says.

If you're spending a significant amount of time in front of the computer screen, you should invest in blue-light lenses, which can help combat the negative effects of screen time leading to retinal damage, says Toni Albrecht, an optometrist at InVision Optical in Minneapolis.

Women who are going through menopause or are postmenopause may also experience dry eyes at this time. Keeping your eyes lubricated with eye drops is important.

Your eyes in your 60s

As you cross into your 60s, the risk for many ocular diseases continues to increase. “This decade is the first time that many people experience the first signs of a cataract, a gradual clouding of the intraocular lens,” Parker says. “People may notice trouble driving at night, needing more light to see and difficulty with color perception."

If you have a strong family history of eye diseases such as glaucoma, macular degeneration and retinal detachment — or if you're diabetic — you should start having annual dilated eye exams, Gao says.

Postwork headaches become more common because as you age, eye fatigue occurs, and your accommodation system in the back of your eyes weakens over time. It becomes more difficult for your lens to change shape and give adequate power, and the muscle in the back of your eye has to work harder, Gao says. Cue the reading glasses or progressive lenses!

Your eyes post-70

After the age of 70, almost all patients will have advancing cataracts and may need to have cataract surgery, Parker says. Plus, the risk for vision-threatening ocular conditions continues to increase. Yearly comprehensive eye exams are essential in dealing with these conditions, as many ocular diseases can be managed more effectively and treated if identified early.
 

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