Do Your Eyes Change as You Age?
As we age, it is natural for the structures and functionality of the eye to change. It is inevitable and sometimes even goes unnoticed by many people. Here are some examples of the many ocular processes that change as we age naturally.
Cornea: How the front part of the eye changes
The cornea is the layer of tissue at the very front of the eye. It is partly responsible for allowing light to enter the eye and focus on the back of the eye.
As we age, the cornea decreases in sensitivity while it thins and flattens. One important change that occurs is to the layer of cells at the back of the cornea, called the endothelial cells.
These are responsible for maintaining a specific water concentration, important for allowing for transparency of the cornea. With age, these cells decrease in density and increase in size, causing the cornea to be more susceptible to swelling. The change is more prominent if an individual has undergone cataract surgery or has diabetes.
Your tears may decrease as you age
A layer of tears sits at the front of the eye, on top of the cornea. This tear film is important for maintaining hydration of the cornea and clarity of vision, as well as immune protection.
As we age, there is a loss in the stability of the tear film, meaning that it has a more difficult time spreading smoothly over the cornea. This can cause blurry vision or discomfort from dry eye disease.
There is also a decrease in tear production: half the amount by age 40 compared to our first decade of life, and then to about a quarter in our 80s. In addition, the drainage of the tears from the eyes can also decrease, which means more tearing.
Crystalline lens and cataract development
The lens sits within the eye, just behind the circular colored portion known as the iris. This is another structure that is important in focusing the light onto the back of the eye and its transparency is key to clear vision.
Many processes change within the lens as we age, however, some of them will occur unnoticed until our late 50s. The most commonly known change is cataracts, a yellowing of the lens that causes blurring, haloes, or color vision changes.
The image quality will be poor and it can even affect one’s glasses prescription. In this case, the issue will only be resolved with cataract surgery once the lens is dense enough.
The vitreous changes and floaters can develop
The majority of the eye is made up of a gel-like substance within the central chamber. This fluid is known as the vitreous and undergoes a variety of changes with age.
For one, the substance undergoes a process known as syneresis, referring to a slow liquefaction of the fluid to be more of a watery consistency. During this process, some of the fluid can coalesce together and cause floaters in your vision, often resembling a worm travelling through your visual field.
Another common symptom associated with this process may be a period of time during which you may notice flashes of light and a large floater. This is because of a posterior vitreous detachment, referring to the pulling away of the vitreous from the back of the eye.
The flashing light could be the vitreous pulling on the retina, the nerve layer at the back of the eye. However, if you notice these symptoms, please visit our eye doctor immediately as it can also be an indication for more harmful processes such as a retinal detachment.
Our eye doctors at EyeDocs Family Eye Care in Brookville, OH excel in prescription of glasses, contact lenses and the diagnosis of a variety of eye disese. Call our optometrists at 937-770-1265 or schedule an eye exam appointment online if you would like to learn how your eyes change as you change. Our eye doctors, Dr. Kyle Maxam and Dr. Cara Wampler, provide the highest quality optometry services and eye exams in Brookville, Ohio.
You can schedule your next appointment with us online!