Aging is a part of life and while it comes with many benefits like seeing your younger family members grow up and increased wisdom, it isn’t without its fair share of drawbacks.
One of the stereotypical consequences of aging is a reduction in vision. It seems like people typically end up like their parents holding the menu laughably far away to see what they are going to eat at the restaurant the older they get.
Joking aside, the eyes are one of the parts of the body that experiences aging that is outwardly apparent. Many other indications of aging are hidden beneath the skin and are only detected through blood tests or other complex diagnostic means.
Your vision is an important aspect of your day-to-day life and your overall quality of life. While a decrease in vision is a common side effect of aging, it doesn’t necessarily need to hinder your life or stop you from your day-to-day life.
Glasses, contacts, laser eye surgery, and supplements can help you with your current vision situation and help you maintain your level of vision. Below is a dive into eyes, aging, and what you can do about it.
How do the eyes work?
To understand how the eyes work you need to understand a little bit about the eye anatomy. The main components of the eye that facilitate vision are the cornea, pupil, lens, and retina. The best way to understand how it works is to understand how light travels through the eye.
Light first enters the eye through the cornea which is mostly fluid. The cornea concentrates light through the opening known as the pupil where the light hits the lens. The lens concentrates the light and adjusts its focus through the utilization of ciliary muscles to the back of the eye. The back of the eye consists of the retina which is home to photoreceptors that are connected to the brain and allow for the possibility of vision.
While the inner workings of the eye may seem complex, the easiest way to conceptualize the eye is to think of it as a camera. A camera lens has all of the same capabilities in that you can control light common in, can adjust focus, and the sensor consists of many photosensitive sensors that are processed into an image.
What causes changes in vision?
The typical cause of decreases in vision are due to a hardening of the lens or decreased ciliary body capability of manipulating the lens. The lens on the eye is what allows for your vision to change its depth perception. If you have ever looked off into the distance and then quickly looked close up to read something, you have most likely experienced a delay in when you would actually be able to read.
This phenomenon exists because it takes time for the muscles within your eye to manipulate the lens to project an infocus image on the back of your retina.
While lens issues are the most common, diminished vision can be caused by a disruption of any part of the eye and the light pathway. Even the shape of the eye can induce certain vision problems
How does aging impact your eye health?
As you age, elastic properties of tissue typically decline. Skin becomes more prone to wrinkles, joints are more prone to injury, and eyesight can become diminished. The loss of elastic properties is most likely to contribute to diminished vision because of the hardening of the lens in the eye. The elasticity and flexibility of the lens is what allows it to be manipulated by muscles in the eye to adjust the focal length.
Generally, aging reduces the ability of vision close to your body. This is termed farsightedness and is generally what people experience as a result of age-related vision problems.
Glasses are generally the first way in which vision problems are corrected. While glasses come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and types they generally act in the same manner.
Glasses work by taking the light that would enter the eye and manipulate it using optics. With vision problems there is typically a problem focusing on things close, far away, or both. Glasses work by pre-focusing or dispersing light entering the eye to allow for a clear image to be transferred onto the retina.
Without going into detail with the physics of optics, nearsighted correcting glasses manipulate what you see by making things further away seem closer which your eye is able to focus on. For farsighted correcting glasses, the lens takes what you see and makes it seem farther away which allows for a clear focused image on the back of your retina.
During an eye exam your vision is tested to determine what your focal distance is or where your eyes are able to focus on an image. A series of mathematics and optics calculations are then performed to give you a lens that is made for you and to alter the things you see to be within your focal range.
Contacts work in a very similar way to glasses, however they are applied to the surface of the eye over the cornea. This rather obvious difference to glasses make it widely less utilized as glasses can be utilized time and time again while contacts are items that frequently need to be replaced.
In addition to being a limited use item, contacts require proper technique to apply and remove. If you do decide that you want contacts they will require you to show that you can apply and remove the contact safely before you are given a prescription. They also educate you on how long you can have contacts in for and tell you the risk factors associated with keeping them longer than instructed.
Even though these may seem like large downsides to getting contacts, there are people that do choose them over glasses. Contacts are ideal for those that easily misplace their glasses, are bothered by obstructions from frames, or are frequently in environments where glasses would obstruct vision in some capacity.
Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis, more commonly known as LASIK, is a surgery that involves the modification of the cornea to fix your vision. As stated previously, the cornea is the first part of the eye that light travels to and it is responsible for assisting in the focusing of an image in the eye.
The best way to think about LASIK is to imagine that you are shaping the cornea to have the same effect that glasses or contacts would have. The modification of the cornea is conducted using laser ablation which is able to precisely remove corneal tissue and ensure that the shape is exactly as it should be. With LASIK eye surgery there is almost no downtime and you can typically go home within the same day of the surgery.
While LASIK is a viable option, it is worth noting that it does come with its fair share of possible side effects and risks. Discussing your options with your ophthalmologist is the best way to help determine if LASIK is right for you.
What can I do to support my vision?
Many people look at their vision issues as simply something that is unavoidable and that they have little control over their vision health. This paired with the fact that the ideology of carrots improving your vision has been proven false can be disheartening. In reality there are things that you can do to help prevent vision related issues and promote good eye health.
The first way that you can support your vision is through a supplement. MitoQ Eye, for example, contains the highly effective mitoquinol molecule in addition to research backed ingredients to assist your vision health including Pycnogenol, Mitroselect, Lutemax 2020, and zinc. While these don't make promises of improving vision, they are a great way to support your vision health which can better your chances of retaining your vision ability.
The second way you can support your vision is by wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes from external damage.
The third way to support your eye health is to perform exercises for eye health. These exercises help to reduce eye strain and can promote better blood flow.
To summarize, the eyes are a complex structure that can sadly experience the signs of aging fairly early on. The tools and resources available like glasses, contacts, and LASIK can make diminishing vision easier to manage, but it is still a nuisance to many.
Taking preventative measures and supporting your vision health through supplements and protection like sunglasses can give you the best shot at retaining visual acuity and not having to deal with corrective eyewear or surgery.
Reviewed by: Kai Man Yuen/ BSc., PGDipSci., MSc.