How your eye health could change through the years and why you should go for regular tests

The older we get the more susceptible we are to eye conditions, but looking after your peepers is important at every stage.

The average US adult only visits their optician every five years, despite the government recommendation to have a check-up at least every two years.

“With many conditions, 40% of vision could be lost without the patient noticing anything is wrong,” says optician Omar Hassan, head of professional services at Vision Express.

“I see patients with sight problems that could have been prevented if it had been diagnosed earlier.”

As part of National Eye Health Week, we look at how your eye health changes through the years…

Kids and teens

Developmental issues

Eye tests are free for under 16s, but only 1 in 5 kids have them regularly. Children may not realise they have sight issues, so it’s important for them to be tested. Without the correct glasses, they could be storing up problems for the future.

“If a child’s poor eyesight isn’t corrected by the age of eight, it can never be corrected fully, even with glasses,” explains Omar. “School performance can drastically improve with the right glasses too.”

20s and 30s

Sun damage

The sun can cause a lot of eye degeneration. “People use suncream, but don’t take the same care with their eyes,” says Omar. The cornea can suffer from sunburn, which leads to problems later on, so wear sunglasses.

● Shortsightedness

In recent years there’s been a huge increase in the number of people diagnosed with myopia or short-sightedness – 27% of adults are now short-sighted, compared to just 10% in the 1960s.

“Myopia is simple to correct with glasses or contacts, so there’s no need to lose out on your senses,” says Omar.

● Screen time

“The screens themselves aren’t affecting people’s vision – if you stared at a painting for a long time it would have the same affect,” says Omar. “But the more you use your eyes, the more tired they’ll get.” So take regular screen breaks.

40s and 50s

Long-sightedness

If you find yourself holding the paper far away from you, you may be suffering from presbyopia, or long-sightedness. It becomes more common after 40, even for those who have never had problems with their vision before.

“It’s critical to have glasses made for you, rather than relying on ready-readers, which won’t correct 100% of the problem,” says Omar. “Off-the-shelf glasses are just magnifiers of different strengths, whereas proper glasses will correct any stigmatism in the eye, meaning you’ll see a sharper image, not just a bigger one.”

● Dry eyes

As you age, your tear glands produce fewer tears, leading to dry and irritated eyes. Women suffer more with this problem, because it can be triggered by hormones, but it’s also caused by air-conditioning, contact lenses and medication. Your eyes may go from dry to watery throughout the day.

“Watery eyes happen when sensitive spots in the eye get dry, so it over-produces tears,” explains Omar. “Take breaks from screens, and blink regularly to replenish the moisture in your eye, or you could try eyedrops.”

60+

 Cataracts

Post 40, everyone will have some form of cataract (a clouding of the lens). Most cases need monitoring rather than treatment.

“In advanced cases, cataract extraction surgery may be needed,” says Omar. “It’s one of the most routine operations in modern medicine, with very high success rates.”

● Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)

This is the most common form of sight loss in over 60s in the UK, with 200 new cases diagnosed every day. The condition causes gradual central sight loss (what you see when you focus straight ahead). With an ageing population, it’s estimated this figure will double by 2050.

“Unfortunately, there isn’t a cure for AMD, although there are injections that can halt its progress,” explains Omar. “But it can lead to significant blindness if left untreated.”

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