Vision changes and problems can be caused by many different conditions. Some include:
Presbyopia -- difficulty focusing on objects that are close. This problem often becomes noticeable in your early to mid 40s.
Cataracts -- cloudiness over the eye lens, causing poor nighttime vision, halos around lights, and sensitivity to glare. Cataracts are common in the elderly.
Glaucoma -- increased pressure in the eye, which is most often painless. Vision will be normal at first, but over time you can develop poor night vision, blind spots, and loss of vision to either side. Glaucoma can also happen suddenly, which is a medical emergency.
Macular degeneration -- loss of central vision, blurred vision (especially while reading), distorted vision (straight lines will appear to be wavy), and colors that look faded. The most common cause of blindness in people over age 60.
Eye infection, inflammation, or injury
Floaters -- tiny particles drifting inside the eye, which may be confused with retinal detachment.
Treatments depend on the cause. Surgery will be recommended for some conditions.
Regular eye checkups from an ophthalmologist or optometrist are important. They should be done once a year if you are over age 65. Some experts recommend annual eye exams starting at an earlier age.
How long you go between exams is based on how long you can wait before detecting an eye problem that has no symptoms. Your health care provider will recommend earlier and more frequent exams if you have known eye problems or conditions that are known to cause eye problems, such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
These important steps can prevent eye and vision problems:
Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.
Wear safety glasses when hammering, grinding, or using power tools.
If you need glasses or contact lenses, keep the prescription up to date.
Limit how much alcohol you drink.
Stay at a healthy weight.
Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol under control.
Keep your blood sugar under control if you have diabetes.
Eat foods rich in antioxidants, like green leafy vegetables.
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for Impaired Visual Acuity in Older Adults. U.S. Preventive Services: Task Force recommendation statement. Ann Intern Med. 2009;151:37-43.
Yanoff M, Cameron d. Diseases of the visual system. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 431.
Olitsky SE, Hug D, Smith LP. Disorders of vision. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 613.
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington; Franklin W. Lusby, MD, Ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.