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What To Look For as Our Eyes Grow Older

Friday, March 02, 2018

The purpose of our Friday Pearl column continues to primarily discuss nutrition science as it relates to eye and body health, and to frequently remind our readers about the importance of regular eye exams by an eye care professional.

How Growing Older Can Cause Eye Problems

Just as hair turns gray with age, bladders weaken and memory's lapse, our eyes, too, undergo a metamorphosis. Although these changes are all part of normal aging, some set the stage for more serious eye problems. As our eyes age, eyelid muscles weaken, and skin becomes more flaccid. This can cause the upper eye lid to droop or the lower lid to sag. Eyelashes and eyebrows may lose their lushness and thin out considerably.

Tear production also drops off, and the oily film that tears provide decreases as lubricating glands in the conjunctiva (the membrane covering the sclera (white part of the eye). These changes can lead to a buildup of mucous, resulting in stickiness, or make the cornea dry, causing irritation or an uncomfortable, gritty sensation in the eye.

The conjunctiva turns thinner and more fragile with age and takes on a yellowish tinge from an increase in the elastic fibers. The sclera may also assume a yellowish hue from a collection of lipid, or fat, deposits. Calcium may be deposited in the sclera, leading to patches of grayish translucency. The exposed conjunctiva between the lids begins to degenerate, and the cornea can develop an opaque white ring around its edge.

With time, the crystalline lens hardens and loses its elasticity. This makes it more difficult to focus on near objects, a common condition called presbyopia. You might also find that your night vision grows poorer. These changes usually occur simultaneously in both eyes.

The picture painted above is not pretty, but the good news is an eye doctor can help lessen the effect of these normal processes.

Warning signs that warrant an eye doctor visit

We highly recommend seeing an eye care professional if you experience any of the following symptoms or problems with your eyes:

•    Change in iris color
•    Crossed eyes
•    Dark spot in the center of your field of vision
•    Difficulty focusing on near or distant objects
•    Double vision
•    Dry eyes with itching or burning
•    Episodes of cloudy vision
•    Excess discharge or tearing
•    Eye pain
•    Floaters or flashers
•    Growing bump on the eyelid
•    Halos (circles around lights) or glare
•    Hazy or blurred vision
•    Inability to close eyelid
•    Loss of peripheral vision
•    Redness around the eye
•    Spots in your field of vision
•    Sudden loss of vision
•    Trouble adjusting to dark rooms
•    Unusual sensitivity to light or glare
•    Veil obstructing vision
•    Wavy or crooked appearance to straight lines.

Ellen Troyer, with Spencer Thornton, MD, David Amess, and the Biosyntrx staff 



We highly recommend that our Friday Pearl readers subscribe to Harvard Health Publications to gain access to science-based information on ways to maintain eye health.

Along with droopy eyes, sagging skin, memory lapse and the weakened bladders associated with aging comes maturity, wisdom and self awareness, so don't let minor issues keep you from staying in the game. Those who do continue to be productive, have a lot more fun and contribute much needed expertise to society.


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