Over 40? Here's what's happening to your eyes – Stuff.co.nz

September 26, 2021 by No Comments

If you’re over 40 and regularly experience tired eyes, or struggle to read on your phone, then you might be one of the 1.6 million New Zealanders who admit that their vision has worsened over the past decade.
According to research commissioned by Specsavers, more than 82 per cent of New Zealanders over the age of 40 admit that they have noticed their vision worsen over the past ten years. Despite this, as many as one in three (31 per cent) haven’t had their eyes tested in over three years.
So why is turning 40 significant when it comes to eye health? Specsavers Optometrist Ian Russell says that 40 is the age most of us start to notice some problems with our sight. However, issues with our eyesight can start much earlier without us noticing and can be caused by many different factors.
"People over 40 begin to notice that it’s a bit more difficult to read small print and by the age of 65 almost all of us will need to wear glasses to correct our vision," explains Russell.
A simple way to help prevent and monitor potential eye conditions is to incorporate an annual or biennial eye test into your health check-ups routine.
"The earlier that we can detect a problem, the earlier you can access treatment and the better the chance that your vision will be maintained as you age," says Russell.
Here are the most common eye conditions that affect people over 40:
Presbyopia is the most common eye condition for those over 40 and occurs when the flexible, crystalline lens in the front of the eye— which allows us to see up close and far away— starts to lose its elasticity and impacts our ability to focus.
"As we get older, the lens in the eye hardens which makes it difficult to focus when we read. However, we can help manage the effects with glasses or contact lenses," says Russell.
Age-related macular degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration is a degenerative eye disease that damages the macula – the central part of the retina – causing progressive loss of central vision. It’s usually associated with ageing and is the leading cause of blindness in New Zealand.
"The earlier that we detect age-related macular degeneration the earlier you can be referred for treatment and the better chance we have of preventing deterioration," says Russell.
"Unfortunately any vision loss caused by age-related macular degeneration is irreversible."
Cataracts are one of the most common causes of blurred vision and vision loss across the world and is a clouding of the eye’s naturally clear lens. When this happens, the amount of light that passes through the lens is minimised and scattered meaning that the image can’t be focused on the retina properly.
Symptoms include blurred, cloudy vision, faded looking colours, double vision or seeing a halo around bright lights.
"Cataracts are strongly related to ageing but can also be caused by sun exposure and smoking. We’ve got access to great ophthalmologists in New Zealand that can fix cataracts with minimum waiting time and great end results," says Russell.
Diabetic retinopathy
If you live with diabetes, your eyes are at risk of damage from diabetic retinopathy, which is one of the most common complications associated with diabetes. If left untreated, it can lead to sight loss and is the leading cause of preventable blindness in New Zealand.
"We can pick up the signs of diabetic retinopathy very easily during an eye test and people living with diabetes should have their eyes tested regularly," says Russell.
A group of eye diseases that can cause damage to the optic nerve – which connects the eye to the brain – glaucoma often results in the gradual loss of peripheral vision.
Glaucoma is known as the ‘silent thief of sight’ because people with early-stage glaucoma experience no symptoms. Sight loss happens at such a gradual rate that it often goes unnoticed until it’s too late and sight loss from glaucoma is irreversible.
"Thanks to new technology, detection has become easier because now we have access to much more detailed information on the granular structures of the eye," says Russell.
For everything you need to know about how to protect your eyes over 40 visit specsavers.co.nz.
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