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Like crow’s feet and graying hair, changes to our eyes are inevitable as we age. But while some age-related eye issues — such as needing reading glasses — are harmless, others, like cataracts, can impact your vision (or worse) and need to be diagnosed and treated.
Here, a look at the most common age-related conditions, and three symptoms that may be signs of more serious eye-health issues.
While you’re still in your 40s, the lens in your eye begins to lose flexibility, making it hard to read up close or small print. “It’s very disconcerting for a lot of people, because it’s the first sign that they’re getting older,” says Sumayya Ahmad, assistant professor of ophthalmology at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Icahn School of Medicine in New York City. You may notice that you’re holding reading material at arm’s length, or that you have trouble reading the menu in a dimly lit restaurant.
If presbyopia’s your only vision problem (meaning you don’t otherwise use contact lenses or glasses) then all you need to do is don a pair of reading glasses, says Michelle Andreoli, an ophthalmologist at the Wheaton Eye Clinic outside Chicago and a clinical spokeswoman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. But if you already wear specs, you’ll need to switch your lenses to bifocals, in which the top of the lens is corrected to treat distance vision, while the bottom helps you see things close up; or opt for progressive lenses, which have gradual focal changes.
If you wear contacts, you have two options: monovision lenses, which correct one eye for seeing at a distance and the other for close-up vision, and multifocal lenses, in which different parts of the lens are set at different powers.