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  • Writer's pictureHouman Ahdieh, MD

Is Worsening Sight Inevitable as We Age?

Updated: Feb 22, 2023

The only thing that’s permanent is change. That’s especially true of our bodies as we age. Age will impact our vision as time goes on. The issues are whether you can adapt to those changes through glasses, contact lenses, or surgery, or are the changes beyond your control?

Identifying and treating age-related processes can often preserve or restore vision for your lifetime, according to an article in Scientific American.

As light enters your eye, it travels through four structures:

  1. Cornea: The transparent tissue at the front of your eye functions like a window

  2. Lens: This focuses the light on the third structure

  3. Retina: This is like film in the back of a camera. Light is converted into a neural signal that’s interpreted by your brain as an image

  4. Optic nerve: It carries the signals to your brain

Problems with your vision, age-related or not, usually impact at least one of these structures

How Does Age Affect the Eye?

  1. Cornea

The integrity of the cornea is essential for you to see clearly. If the surface is not smooth and intact your vision will suffer. A thin layer of tears covers the surface. It’s vital to keep the corneal surface smooth surface. Anything disrupting the tear film can harm your cornea’s surface and degrade the image entering your eye.

Blepharitis, an eyelid inflammation, can inhibit tear production, affecting tear production and the corneal surface. If you have this, you may feel like there’s a film over your eye, and your vision may blur. If this is a chronic problem, it’s known as dry eyes. Treatment depends on the cause of the inflammation. It may include artificial tears, warm compresses, oral antibiotics, and topical immunosuppressive drugs that decrease inflammation.

  1. Lens

Two age-related conditions impacting the lens, cataracts, and presbyopia, will affect nearly everyone.

When we are born our lenses should be crystal clear, so images entering your eye aren’t limited by any opacity. Your lenses should also be able to change their shape so you can better focus on nearby and far-away images. A lens with a cataract can be surgically removed and replaced with a clear artificial one.

As you age, your lenses will probably cloud and become less pliable. When the lens is clouded (a cataract), images go through a clouded medium, diminishing your vision. If your lenses lose pliability (presbyopia), they can’t focus over a wide range of distances. A hardened lens becomes fixed on distant objects, so it cannot focus as well on nearby objects (nearsightedness) or vice versa. The solution is usually using reading glasses or bifocals.

  1. Retina and Optic Nerve

The retina and the optic nerve work together, and deterioration in either can create serious, potentially blinding, conditions. The retina converts the image entering the eye into a neural signal which is transmitted to the brain through extensions of the ganglion cells. These extensions form the optic nerve.

If there is no disease impacting this duo, there should be no significant age-related impact on the capacity of the retina or optic nerve. But age-related diseases of these two happen. They include:

  • Macular degeneration: The loss of central retinal function

  • Glaucoma: Damage to the optic nerve due to increased pressure in the eye

Early detection of these diseases may prevent or limit vision loss, particularly as new and improved therapies become available.


The Lehigh Valley Center for Sight Can Help You Maintain Your Sight

If you want to schedule an eye exam or have questions or concerns about how your vision has changed over the years, call us at 610-437-4988 or use our online contact form. We can answer your questions and schedule an eye exam so you can take steps to maintain your sight.

Houman Ahdieh, MD Lehigh Valley Center for Sight



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