Change in Refractive Error
In some people as they age develop cataracts the lens in the eye becomes stronger making the eye more near sighted. A change in glasses prescription is all that is needed until the cataracts become cloudier and the vision blurs.
Dry eyes can cause people to have blurred vision. There needs to be a smooth normal tear film covering the cornea in order for the eye to focus clearly. Treating the dry eye syndrome will improve the vision. Corneal diseases such as Fuchs’ dystrophy become more prevalent as one becomes older which causes a gradual decrease in vision as the cornea swells. Other corneal diseases and dystrophies such map dot dystrophy begin to blur vision as we age.
Cataracts are the most common cause of a gradual decrease in vision in people over age 55. When the cataracts interfere to the point that a person’s lifestyle is affected or limited, cataract is extremely effective in restoring their vision.
Glaucoma becomes more prevalent as we age. Approximately 6 million people in the United States have glaucoma. In glaucoma, the eye pressure is higher than what the eye can tolerate. This leads to damage to the optic nerve in back of the eye. People gradually start to lose vision which begins with the loss of side vision initially and later central vision. It is very important that people age 55 and over get their eye pressure checked routinely. Anyone with a family history of glaucoma should get their eye pressure checked yearly.
Diabetes slowly damages the blood vessels in the retina especially in people who do not control their blood sugars. Once the blood vessels and capillaries are damaged enough, they begin to bleed and leak fluid (serum) into the retina. This leads to edema or swelling of the retina. If the swelling occurs in the macula (part of the retina responsible for central clear vision) the vision gradually decreases. This can be treated and the earlier it is diagnosed the better the outcome.
Macular Degeneration (Dry Type)
The macula is responsible for our central clear vision. In the dry type macular degeneration, the cells gradually degenerate which results in blurred, distorted, and/or loss of vision. Macular degeneration does have a genetic component. People with a family history of macular degeneration need to be closely observed.
People who have a gradual decrease in vision or loss of vision need to see their eye doctor as soon as reasonably possible. Many of the causes can be treated successfully if diagnosed early.