How Our Eyes Change with Age
The body goes through a variety of changes as we age, and the eyes are no exception. Below is outlined some of the major changes that occur naturally with age in the eyes.
Changes to Your Eyelids
With age, the eyelid will lose its rigidity due to the degeneration of elastic and fibrous tissues within it. This change in the eyelids can cause entropion, an inward turn of the eyelid that can cause discomfort for the individual as the eyelashes come into contact with the eye itself.
Alternatively, the eyelid could also turn outward, a condition known as ectropion. This would cause the individual to have an exposed eye that is susceptible to dryness and tearing.
Lastly, a drooping down of the upper eyelid, due to a gradual loss of function of the upper eyelid muscles, is known as ptosis. This is sometimes associated with a loss of an individual’s upper visual field as the eyelid covers half of the pupil.
A common condition that increases in prevalence with age, a cataract affects the natural lens within the eye that helps to focus light onto the nerves at the back of the eye.
The clarity within this lens is important as it is a window through which light must pass to reach the retina at the back of the eye. A cataract is a loss of transparency in the lens that occurs with age, although it can also be acquired earlier in life due to disease or injury or at birth.
There are many different types of cataracts, with some impairing vision more than others. Cataract surgery is completed in order to combat this condition and an intraocular lens is placed in the eye to maintain good vision.
Floaters and Posterior Vitreous Detachment
Flashes and floaters are a common symptom that our optometrist may have warned you about. They may have mentioned that if you ever notice these symptoms, it is important to visit our eye doctor as soon as possible as there is a chance of a retinal detachment or tear.
However, in some cases, the flashes and floaters are due to a natural aging process known as a posterior vitreous detachment.
Within the eye, there is a gel-like substance known as the vitreous. The vitreous liquifies and shrinks in size with age, separating from the nerve layer at the back of the eye, the retina.
This process occurs at different times for each individual but a common statistic is that those who are 50 years of age are 50 % likely to have already had a PVD.
At 60 years of age, 60 % have already had this occur, and so on. The tugging of the vitreous on the retina is what causes those flashes. Normally, the pulling away of the vitreous will not cause any complications but in some cases, it can cause a tear of the retina. This can ultimately lead to vision loss if not treated early.
When reading something in close proximity, the lens in the eye must change shape so that the light can be focused onto the retina.
This shape conformation is accomplished with the help of small muscles around the lens that contract to help the lens become more round. Similar to other muscles and tissue in the body, the lens becomes more rigid and loses its ability to change shape with age, preventing the eye from clearly focusing images up close.
Luckily, a pair of reading glasses can help to focus the light at near onto the retina and produce a clear image.
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