Senior Eye Health

As the human body ages, it undergoes constant change. Not surprisingly, the eyes, eyelids, and supporting ocular structures all change as the clock ticks. Unfortunately, change is not always for the better.
What are common problems in the aging eyeand how are they prevented?

The eye’s natural lens works best when it is flexible and clear. With time, however, its clarity slowly diminishes. When the natural lens actually becomes cloudy, it is then called a “cataract,” which is associated with a decrease in vision. Cataract surgery is the only proven remedy for this condition.

Prevention | Some population-based studies have found antioxidant vitamins to be potentially preventative. Ultraviolet light protection, smoking cessation, and avoidance of certain medications are all thought to limit the likelihood of cataract development.

Dry Eyes

The amount and quality of the eye’s lubrication may decrease as we age, leading to burning, itching, or a gritty sensation. Dry eye syndrome commonly causes blurring of vision. Rarely, permanent vision loss can result from severe disease. New therapies to stimulate tear production and maintain tear volume now exist to complement artificial tear drops.

Prevention | Diets high in omega-3 and -6 fatty acids may help to prevent dry eye. Avoidance of many medications can lessen the likelihood of dry eye development.

Macular Degeneration

As the back of the eye ages, central vision loss can occur. Symptoms from this retinal dysfunction include blurred vision, the perception of straight objects appearing wavy, and sometimes, a sudden drop in vision. High dose antioxidant vitamins, laser treatment, or injectable medications may help prevent further visual degradation.

Prevention | Ultraviolet light and blue light filtering glasses may be protective. Smoking cessation and antioxidant vitamins have been shown to help prevent severe vision loss in patients with some pre-existing macular degeneration.


Presbyopia is an age-related dysfunction of the lens and focusing structures in the eye. Increasing difficulty with reading and up close vision is the end result. Many people (usually around age 45) notice that it helps to hold reading material further away. Bifocals or other eyewear may help to improve near vision. Surgical procedures are now available to improve near vision deficits.

Sagging Eyelids

Drooping of the eyelids and surrounding structures is common in the aging population. Laxity of the supporting tissues in the brow and eyelid is to blame, creating extra eyelid skin, partial eyelid closure, and “bags” around the eyes. When prominent, decreased peripheral vision, ocular fatigue, and general eye irritation may all be noted. Surgery and non-invasive collagen tightening have helped many with this problem.

Prevention | Avoiding eye rubbing is thought to be helpful.

Eye Floaters

Moving black spots, “webs,” and “strings” in the vision are common descriptions of floaters. They typically worsen (later in adulthood) when the vitreous gel separates from the back of the eye. The resulting debris from this separation creates unwanted floaters in the field of vision. It is important to be evaluated for potential retina problems when new floaters arise.

Prevention | There are no effective preventive measures.

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Eau Claire, WI 54701
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