Your Vision

Your vision may change as you age. You can help keep your vision healthy and prevent eye diseases or vision changes.

What increases my risk for vision problems?

  • Smoking
  • Age older than 60
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Being overweight
  • Medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease
  • A family history of vision problems
  • Exposure to UV rays for long periods of time
  • An eye infection or injury

What are warning signs of a vision problem?

  • Blurred vision, double vision, or a blind spot in the center of your vision
  • Difficulty seeing at night
  • Difficulty seeing things that are held close to your eyes
  • Squinting to see something that is more than 20 feet from you
  • Black or grey spots in your vision
  • Red eyes or eye discomfort or pain

What problems can affect my vision?

Refractive errors means the eye does not bend light correctly, causing blurry vision. They may happen to adults at any age, but may happen more frequently as you age. The following are types of refractive errors:

  • Farsightedness , or hyperopia, means you have trouble seeing things that are close to you. Presbyopia is a type of farsightedness that happens as you get older.
  • Nearsightedness , or myopia, means you have trouble seeing things that are far away.
  • Astigmatism is a problem with the curve of your eye's surface. You may not have symptoms, or you may have blurry vision or eye discomfort.

What eye problems may develop with aging?

  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) can cause vision loss in one or both eyes. The macula controls what you see at the center of your vision. AMD is caused by the growth of abnormal blood vessels. There is no cure for AMD.
  • A cataract is a clouding of the eye's lens. The lens is near the front of the eye. The lens helps focus light to create an image of what you see. Cataracts may affect one or both eyes.
  • Glaucoma is an eye disease that causes vision loss in one or both eyes. Glaucoma is caused by fluid buildup behind the eye. This puts pressure on your optic nerve and damages it.
  • Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is eye damage caused by high blood sugar levels. The walls of the blood vessels in the retina weaken and leak blood. This causes swelling and vision problems. Over time, new, weak blood vessels grow, leak blood, and damage the center of the retina.

How are vision problems diagnosed and treated?

Early diagnosis and treatment of vision problems or eye diseases may prevent permanent damage. Your healthcare provider can test your vision. He or she will examine your eyes with a light. He or she may put drops in your eyes to help see your eyes more clearly. He or she may use instruments to measure your eye pressure and shape. You will need to read letters off of a chart to test your vision. You may need to see an ophthalmologist. An ophthalmologist is a specialist who diagnoses and treats eye and vision problems. You may need any of the following to treat a vision problem:

  • Medicines such as antibiotic or antifungal eyedrops may be given to treat a bacterial or fungal infection. Eyedrops may be given to control glaucoma or prevent macular degeneration from getting worse.
  • Glasses help correct nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. You may only need glasses to do work on the computer or drive at night.

Contacts help correct nearsightedness. You will need to learn how to insert and remove contact lenses correctly. You will also need to learn how to clean and store them, and how often to change them. Proper cleaning and changing of your contacts can help prevent eye damage or infection. Wash your hands before you clean, insert, or remove your contacts.

  • Surgery may be used to correct vision problems. Surgery may also be used to remove a cataract or control macular degeneration.

What can I do to keep my eyes healthy?

  • Get an eye exam every 2 years. Ask your healthcare provider if you need to have an eye exam more often. Early diagnosis and treatment of eye problems may prevent permanent damage.
  • Manage high blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes. This may decrease your risk for MD, glaucoma, or cataracts. Follow up with healthcare providers who manage these conditions.
  • Wear sunglasses with ultraviolet (UV) light protection. UV light from the sun can damage your eyes. It can increase your risk for vision loss, cataracts, and MD. Make sure your ski goggles also have UV protection.
  • Wear safety glasses, eye shields, or goggles. These items can prevent eye injury. Make sure the eyewear wraps around the sides of your face. Wear these items while you work with chemicals, metal, wood, or bodily fluids such as blood. Also wear protective eye wear during sports such as racquetball or swimming. Do not use regular eye glasses for eye protection. They will not protect your eyes from foreign bodies or chemicals.
  • Eat foods that contain eye-healthy nutrients. Eye-healthy nutrients include vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Examples of foods that contain these nutrients include spinach, peanuts, salmon, collard greens, avocados, squash, eggs, and blueberries. Ask your healthcare provider for a full list of foods that contain eye-healthy nutrients. You may also need to take a vitamin or supplement to help you get enough of these nutrients.
  • Do not smoke. Chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung damage. They may also increase your risk for eye problems. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit.
  • Limit alcohol use. Heavy alcohol use may increase your risk for eye diseases. Ask your healthcare provider if it is okay for you to drink alcohol.

Eye Health Nutrition

What can I do to prevent computer vision syndrome?

Computer vision syndrome is a condition caused by long periods of time spent on the computer. Symptoms include dry eyes, headache, and blurry vision. The following may help decrease your risk for computer vision syndrome:

  • Take breaks. Look at an object 20 feet away from your computer or tablet every 20 minutes. Do this for 20 seconds before you look back at your screen. This can prevent blurry vision, headaches, and tired eyes. Rest your eyes for 15 minutes every 2 hours.
  • Blink frequently. This will help keep your eyes moist and prevent dry eyes.
  • Make sure your computer screen is 4 to 5 inches lower than eye level. This will put less stress on your eyes.
  • Decrease the glare on your computer screen. This will prevent too much light in your eyes. Keep lights dimmed or positioned away from your screen. Use blinds on windows. You may need to apply an anti-glare screen over your computer. Ask your healthcare provider where to buy an anti-glare screen.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have a sudden change in your vision or complete loss of vision.
  • You have a foreign body in your eye.
  • Your contact lens gets stuck in your eye.
  • Your eye is bleeding or looks different than usual.
  • You have severe eye pain.

When should I call my doctor?

  • Your eyelid is swollen.
  • Your eyes are sensitive to light.
  • You get hit in the eye with an object.
  • You have changes in your vision.
  • Your eyes are red and draining yellow or white fluid.
  • You feel like there is something in your eye.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.