The body changes as people age, including the eyes. The eyes function differently in the different stages of life. Such changes in vision can be expected. Some of them offer serious risks, some are caused by diseases or illness, and in general, the change in vision may be corrected with eyeglasses, contact lenses, or surgery. Some changes in vision, however, can be symptoms of serious eye diseases.
While many age-related vision changes are normal, they may cause problems when they interfere with a wide range of everyday activities.
There are times when you just find yourself squinting, blinking, or rubbing your eyes to gain a clearer view. It is common for people to attribute blurred vision and other vision changes to old age or needing new glasses. However, what many fail to consider is that the sudden change in vision could be a sign of other health problems. People should bear in mind that sudden changes to the eyesight are not normal, so if they happen, they should see a doctor right away.
Blurry vision is quite common. A problem occurring in any of the various components of the eye such as the retina, cornea, or optic nerve may cause blurred vision.
Blurred vision that progresses slowly is typically caused by chronic medical conditions. This problem is usually caused by a single event.
A serious problem involving the eye is vision loss. It is losing the ability to see well without any sort of vision correction. Vision correction tools include eyeglasses, contact lenses, permanent artificial lenses, or surgical correction to the eye. Vision loss can happen gradually or suddenly. A person may have partial vision loss or complete vision loss.
Some causes of changes in vision are medical emergencies that need to be treated as soon as possible to prevent permanent damage or loss of vision.
1. Detached retina
A detached retina happens when the retina tears away from the back of the eye and loses its blood and nerve supply. When this occurs, you will see black flecks to be followed by an area of absent or blurred vision. If emergency treatment will not be provided immediately, the lost vision in an area may be lost permanently.
Lost or blurry vision in both eyes may occur when a person has a stroke that affects the part of the brain that controls vision. A stroke involving the eye can cause blurred or lost vision in only one eye.
The person may also have other symptoms of a stroke, such as a weakness on the side of the body or the inability to speak.
3. Transit ischemic attack
A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a type of stroke lasting less than 24 hours. One of the symptoms of TIA is a blurred vision in one or both eyes.
4. Wet macular degeneration
The macula is the center of the retina. When blood and other fluids leak into the macula, it is known to as wet macular degeneration, which causes vision loss or blurred vision in the center of the visual field. It is different from dry macular degeneration in that this one usually begins suddenly and will progress rapidly.
Eye strain may occur after you look at and focus on something for a long time without a break.
Eye strain resulting from focusing on an electronic device such as a computer, cellphone, or video monitor, is called digital eye strain. Other causes of eye strain include driving and reading at night and in poor weather.
Conjunctivitis, also called pink eye, is an infection of the outside lining of the eye, usually caused by a virus but at times by a bacteria.
7. Corneal abrasion
The cornea is the clear cover of the front of the eye. When it gets injured or scratched, a corneal abrasion may develop. In addition to having a blurry vision, you may also feel like there is something in your eye.
8. High blood sugar
Very high blood sugar can cause the lens of the eye to swell, resulting in blurred vision.
A hyphema is a dark red blood that pooled inside the front of your eyeball. It is usually caused by bleeding that may occur after sustaining trauma to your eye. It will be painful when it increases pressure inside the eye.
The colored part of the eye is called iris. This condition occurs when the iris is inflamed because of an autoimmune reaction. It may occur by itself or as part of an autoimmune condition such as sarcoidosis or rheumatoid arthritis. It may also be caused by infections such as herpes and is usually very painful.
Keratitis is the inflammation of the cornea. It is usually caused by an infection. Using one pair of contact lenses for a long period or reusing dirty contact lenses will increase your risk for this problem.
12. Macular hole
The macula is the center of the retina that helps you have a sharp vision. It can develop a break or a tear that causes blurry vision. It usually affects only one eye.
13. Migraine with aura
When a migraine attack is preceded by an aura, it can cause a blurred vision. You may also experience wavy lines or flashing lights and other disturbances of the senses. There are times when you may have an aura with no headache.
14. Optic neuritis
The eye and the brain are connected by the optic nerve. Optic neuritis is the swelling of the optic nerves. It is often caused by an autoimmune reaction or early multiple sclerosis. Other causes include autoimmune conditions such as an infection or lupus. Most often, the condition affects only one eye.
15. Temporal arteritis
Temporal arteritis is the inflammation in the arteries around the temples. Its main symptom is a throbbing headache in the forehead, but it may also cause blurred vision, which you may eventually lose.
The area in the middle of the eye that contains the iris is the uvea. An autoimmune reaction or an infection can cause it to become inflamed and painful, called uveitis.
Causes of vision loss
The main causes of vision loss in people who are 40 years old or older are:
- Macular degeneration - This is due to changes in the macula, that part of the eye that gives you clear vision.
- Glaucoma - This is due to high pressure from the fluid inside the eye.
- Cataracts - This is clouding of the lens inside the eye.
- Diabetic retinopathy - This usually affects people with diabetes. It happens when the blood sugar levels damage the blood vessels in the eyes.
Diagnosis and Treatment
You may not immediately realize that your vision is becoming worse. This is true if the changes happen gradually. It may be another person who is close to you who may first notice that you do not see well.
See your doctor if vision problems prevent you from doing your normal activities. Your doctor can recommend the right treatment for you, depending on what causes your vision problem.
Your doctor will treat you depending on the condition that affects your vision.
- Detached or torn retina - This will need emergency surgery to repair it and to prevent irreversible loss of vision.
- Stroke - Appropriate and prompt treatment stroke is critical to the prevention of brain cells death.
- Transient ischemic attack - The symptoms resolve on their own within 24 hours. You may be given blood thinners to reduce the risk of future stroke.
- Wet macular degeneration - Injectable eye medications can improve vision. Laser photocoagulation treatment may slow down vision loss but cannot restore your vision. You can help see better by using special vision-enhancing devices.
- Eye strain - Take a break and rest your eyes if you have eye strain. Follow the 20-20-20 rule, which requires you to focus on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes of looking at a screen or a thing for a long time.
- Conjunctivitis - This condition usually goes away without doing anything, but the use of antibiotics or antiviral medication could hasten the recovery and lower the possibility of it spreading.
- High blood sugar - Controlling the blood sugar level will solve the problem.
- Hyphema - Eye patch and bed rest should help when there are no other eye injuries. If the condition becomes severe and the pressure goes up, an ophthalmologist may have to remove the blood through surgery.
- Keratitis - It is treated using antibiotic drops when it is caused by an infection. Steroid eye drops and oral antibiotics are used for severe infections.
- Macular hole - It will have to be surgically repaired if it does not heal on its own.
- Migraine with aura - While an aura does not require any treatment, it is a reminder for you to take your migraine medication.
- Optic neuritis - Treating the underlying condition will manage the problem.
- Temporal arteritis - Long-term use of steroids is the usual treatment to avoid permanent vision problems.
- Uveitis - It is resolved with the use of steroids. Repeated recurrence could lead to blindness.
Risks of Having Change in Vision
Adults aged 40 years and older at a higher risk of eye changes in vision. The major eye problems among people of this age group are diabetic retinopathy, cataract, age-related macular degeneration, and glaucoma.
When to Seek Medical Attention
Many factors can cause your vision to suddenly change. You should see your doctor immediately if you experience any sudden or unexplained change in your vision.
If you believe you have wet macular degeneration, detached retina, or are experiencing a stroke or TIA, go to the ER immediately or call emergency medical services.