Learn About Vision Changes Caused by Age and Disease

Learn About Vision Changes Caused by Age and Disease

As people get older, their eyes change in ways that affect vision. For example, an older adult might need reading glasses or have trouble driving at night.

Annual eye examinations are recommended for all adults over age 60. Optometrists and ophthalmologists can check eye health and vision.

People having difficulty seeing might:

  • Shade their eyes with their hand when in the sun
  • Bump into or trip over objects
  • Appear confused because they're not seeing signs or other visual information
  • Look different because they have trouble seeing when bathing, dressing or grooming

Normal, age-related vision changes can make it difficult for older adults to:

  • Focus on close-up objects, like words on a page
  • Tolerate glare, like that from a shiny floor or oncoming headlights
  • See in very bright or very dark places
  • Tell certain colors apart, like blues and greens
  • See objects to the right or left, or above and below, without turning the head

Older adults' eyes might produce fewer tears. This condition, called dry eye, can lead to infection, inflammation and eye damage, if not treated. Eye drops or artificial tears can help.

Age-related health conditions that affect vision include:

  • Cataracts, which can blur or decrease vision, reduce night vision, and make it difficult to judge distances and see colors
  • Glaucoma, which can reduce peripheral vision, making it difficult to see objects on the right or left
  • Macular degeneration, which can distort or blur vision and cause blind spots
  • Diabetic retinopathy, which can make vision blurry, spotty or hazy and make it difficult to see colors

People with diabetes or high blood pressure are more likely to have vision problems and are encouraged to have at least one eye exam per year.

Some medications have eye-related side effects. For example, antihistamines and cholesterol-lowering medications can make dry eye worse.

Around the home, older adults can see better with added lighting, keeping the level of light similar between rooms. Using light shades and covering up shiny floor surfaces reduces glare.