Good lifestyle habits and good nutrition can help delay how aging affects vision and prevent the onset of certain eye problems. As you grow older and enter your senior years, knowing what to expect and when it is necessary to seek professional assistance can help you to seek professional care can provide preventative measures to safeguard your vision.
Learning about the warning signs of age-related eye problems that could result in vision loss is especially important for senior citizens
Effects of How Aging Affects Vision
Health conditions that affect other parts of your body can also affect vision. These include diabetes and hypertension. Furthermore, medication that have eye-related side effects can also cause vision problems
Digital eye strain from improper computer use while in the workforce can cause blurred vision and headaches (CHEC 2020). We generally blink about 12 times per minute, but when on the computer, we only blink five times per minute This will cause dry eyes. Even people with perfect vision may experience these symptoms
Onset of Changes
As you approach middle age, the eye lens becomes less flexible and more unable to focus on nearby objects (presbyopia). Initially reading glasses or bifocals may be helpful.
As aging progresses many of the following changes are observed.
- Thinning of the conjunctiva
- Yellowing or browning of the eyes caused by several years of exposure to ultraviolet light, wind, and dust
- A bluish hue caused by increased transparency of the sclera
- Random splotches of pigment (more common among people with a dark complexion)
- There is an increased number of floating black spots – floaters, which usually do not significantly interfere with vision.
MUSCLES AND PUPILS
- Those muscles that close the eyelids decrease in strength
- Muscles that regulate the size of the pupils weaken
- The pupils become smaller, react less quickly to light, and dilate more slowly in the dark. Hence, seniors over the age of 60 may find that objects appear dimmer. They are also initially overwhelmed by the brightness of light when they step outdoors, when facing oncoming cars during night driving, or going from a brightly lit environment to a darker one. These experiences are further aggravated by the effects of cataracts.
- Sharpness of vision (acuity) is reduced even with the use of glasses, especially in people who have a cataract, macular degeneration, or advanced glaucoma.
- The amount of light that reaches the back of the retina is reduced, increasing the need for brighter illumination and for greater contrast between objects and the background.
FAT DEPOSITS AND TEAR PRODUCTION
- Fat around the eye orbit shrinks, causing the eyeball to shrink into the orbit and giving a sunken appearance
- Production of tears and mucous cell may decrease causing reduced lubrication of the eyeball and resulting in dry eyes. However, when the eyes are subjected to irritation, significant amounts of tears are produced.
- In people over 60, a deposit of calcium and cholesterol salts appear as a gray-white ring at the edge of the cornea although it does not affect vision.
Eye diseases such as cataracts are common and certain retinal diseases occur more frequently in aging adults. These include macular degeneration, detachment of the retina and diabetic retinopathy.
Prevention is Better than Seeking for a Cure
What you eat may affect your vision. In daily food consumption, there are certain vitamins and minerals believed to play a role in preventing two common causes of vision problems – cataracts, which are cloudy areas in the eye lens and, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) causes vision loss in the macula (the part of the eye that controls central vision).
Which Nutrients are Helpful?
The retina and especially the macula serves as an environment where free- radicals proliferate. These free-radicals damage proteins and cellular DNA. There is some evidence that dietary antioxidant vitamins (A, C, E) and the mineral Zinc. May help prevent the progression of macular degeneration. Antioxidants fight free radicals and are thought to help protect the retina from this damage.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids found in the retina and dietary intake of these compounds has been shown to have antioxidant properties and to improve pigment density in the macula.
This pigment protects the cells in the macular area by absorbing excess blue and ultraviolet light and neutralizing free radicals. Lutein and zeaxanthin are usually found together in food.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been demonstrated to have anti-inflammatory properties, and there is evidence to suggest that inflammation plays a role in macular degeneration. Therefore, dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA is beneficial for retinal health.
Foods that Supply these Nutrients
Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in most fruits and vegetables, especially yellow and orange (bell peppers) varieties and leafy greens (Harvard Edu 2013).
Egg yolks are an even richer source of lutein and zeaxanthrin.
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in cold water fish, flax seed, and walnuts.
Good sources of zinc include red meat and shellfish. Vitamins A, C, and E is found in many vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds
The reference table below contains compiled information of foods which supply the best sources of these
Good Sources of Nutrients
Lutein & Zeaxanthin: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, corn, eggs, kale, nectarines, oranges, papayas, romaine lettuce, spinach, squash, carrots
Omega-3 fatty acids: Flaxseed, flax seed oil, halibut, salmon, sardines, tuna, walnuts, chia seeds, almonds, pistachios
Vitamin A: Cantaloupe (raw), apricots, carrots, mangoes, red peppers (raw), ricotta cheese (part- skim), spinach, sweet potatoes
Vitamin C: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, grapefruit, kiwi, oranges, red peppers (raw), strawberries, blueberries, sunflower seeds
Vitamin E: Almonds, broccoli, peanut butter, spinach, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, pistachios, walnuts
Zinc: Chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, black-eye peas, oysters, shellfish, pork chops, lean red meat, turkey, yogurt
Source: Harvard Health Edu
This review of how aging affects vision highlights the causes of impaired vision and blindness in aging adults. These include age-related eye diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts. Beside lifestyle changes and good nutrition which could help delay or prevent certain eye problems, getting annual eye exams can be helpful in detecting eye problems early and treating them in a timely manner.
Council for Healthy Eyes (CHEC) 2020. Common Eye Problems – Digital Eye Strain https://www.thinkaboutyoureyes.ca/eye-health-hub/digital-eye-strain/
American Optometric Association (2020) Senior Vision: Over 60 Years of Age https://www.aoa.org/healthy-eyes/eye-health-for-life/senior-vision?sso=y
Garrity, J (2019) Effects of Aging on the Eyes https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/eye-disorders/biology-of-the-eyes/effects-of-aging-on-the-eyes
Harvard Health Education (2013). Top Foods to Help Protect Your Vision https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/top-foods-to-help-protect-your-vision
Malik, U (2020) 15 Best Foods for Eye Health. https:irisvision.com/foods-for-eye-health