Why Does Your Vision Get Worse as You Age?

Written by on October 10, 2012 in Lifestyle - No comments | Print this page

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“My eyes just are not what they used to be,” is one phrase that we have probably all either heard or possibly even said ourselves. The deterioration of vision is simply one of those generally accepted facts of life, similar to the way that hair tends to change to lighter colors or skin slowly starts to lose its elasticity with age. However, while the causes of aging skin are fairly well known (from genetics’ factors to degrees of exposure to damaging environmental elements), many individuals are far less informed about why eyesight degrades with age as well.

However, at the same time, it should be noted that deteriorating eyesight is far from a certain attribute of aging. In fact, according to a 2006 article in Scientific American, there is no set and determined one reason for why eyesight seems to often grow weaker over time. Instead, this article which interviews David Zacks, a retina specialist, focuses on how a breakdown in any one part of the muscles and cells needed during the seeing process can contribute to blurred vision.

More specifically, tears/scratches and irregularities in the cornea are among the most common causes of vision deterioration. All light (and therefore all initial perception of images) enters the eye through the cornea, which ideally should be a smooth, transparent tissue that covers the entire surface of the eye. However, sometimes over time the cornea can become damaged and what once was a completely uniform, smooth surface becomes irregular, which in turn affects the appearance of any light that passes through the eyes. Think of the cornea as being similar to the glass on a camera lens; if that glass is damaged, then all photographs will also be less than ideal. If the cornea is damaged, all vision is also damaged.

Corneal damage can stem from a number of causes. The cornea needs to be adequately lubricated by special tear ducts during all times, and any damage to the cells of these tear ducts will subsequently cause damage to the cornea as well. Inflammation of the eyelids is among the most common culprits in damaging these important cells. Such inflammation can cause problems ranging from blurry vision with the sensation of a “film” over the eyes to overly dry eyes that cannot produce enough moisture, even when blinking. Usually inflammation of the eyelids is a treatable problem, but sometimes this problem is not treated before permanent damage to the cornea has occurred.

Another common cause of failing eyesight is the deterioration of the lens. Just as important as the cornea, the eye lens is responsible for focusing the image (light) that initially passed through the cornea onto the retina of the eye. If the lens is damaged, the “focused” image will also be damaged (not properly focused).

Damaged lenses typically fall into one of two categories: Damage due to a reduction in flexibility of a lens or damage due to cataracts. The latter of these two causes, damage due to cataracts, results in fogginess or blurriness of vision and an overall distortion of image perception. Since cataracts do not usually cover the enter lens (today’s medical world usually removes them before this can occur), vision frustrated by cataracts is still existent—it is just severely hindered.

The other cause, damage do to lost lens’ pliability, relates to the purpose of the lens in general. Specifically, in order for the lens to perform its function of focusing images onto the retina, it must be able to bend so that it can focus images from varying distances. If the lens loses this essential pliability, then vision at certain distances will be severely impaired. This is why aging individuals are often incapable of reading small text at close any proximity to the eyes, since the lens in this case is “fixed” at focusing with images of greater distances. The opposite problem, an inability to see distant objects, can also result from a loss of lens pliability. Such losses in the flexibility of lenses typically occur later in life and this problem is not often experienced in one’s youth.

In addition to problems with the cornea and lens, eyesight may also deteriorate as the result of complications with the retina. When diseases such as macular degeneration strike the retina, eyesight can rapidly grow worse. The cause of macular degeneration is still not completely clear, however, this problem is indeed one that is typically associated with older age.

Overall, the beautiful process of seeing is certainly also a complex process, and the causes leading up to a deterioration of visual ability fully reflect this. Fortunately, modern science has created ways to tackle many of these issues, whether by surgery or through corrective eye wear. Of course, proper preventive measures against eyesight deterioration should also be taken whenever possible. Such preventative measures include consuming a nutritious diet and limiting time spent participating in eye-stressing activities (working on the computer, reading fine print).

This is a guest post.  Are you curious if you can recieve Laser Eye Surgery in Dallas? Maybe you just want to speak to a real doctor about whether your vision can be corrected. Either way, contact the Carter Eye Center to have a free, hassle-free consultation.

Image courtesy of jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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