While some people suffer from vision problems their entire lives, aging presents a few more challenges to the eye as well. Other common eye issues include clouding of the lens, hardening of the lens or retinal damage.
Refractive errors. The National Eye Institute names refractive errors as the most common cause of vision problems. The Institute states, “The length of the eyeball (either longer or shorter), changes in the shape of the cornea, or aging of the lens can cause refractive errors.” This is your typical nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism — conditions that are generally present to some degree at a young age and that may continue to progress into early adulthood. The most common age-related refractive error is presbyopia, the hardening of the lenses that generally causes vision changes after the age of 40.
Cataracts. Though they can occur at any age, cataracts that are severe enough to interfere with vision are generally associated with adults aged 50 and over. These may be the result of injury — sometimes years after the accident or condition that caused the damage — or from protein deterioration over time that causes the fluid inside the eye’s lens to cloud. While cataracts progress over time and can ultimately cause blindness, they are one of the only common eye problems that can be completely cured through surgically replacing the natural lens.
Diabetic retinopathy. The prolonged high blood pressure and high blood sugar associated with type 1 and type 2 diabetes can cause damage to various structures in the eye. There are several types of diabetic retinopathy, but the most common is rupture or blockage of the tiny vessels in the eye, causing intraocular bleeding and other issues.
Glaucoma. Associated primarily with both diabetes and age, glaucoma is a condition that leads to optic nerve damage. The condition is generally characterized by increased intraocular pressure, which is usually due to blockage in the angles that allow old fluids to drain from the eye.
Macular degeneration. One of the leading causes of blindness, macular degeneration is damage to the part of the retina that perceives light — the macula. This may be due to excessive pressure or deterioration over time, in one or both eyes. Current treatments can slow the progression of the disease, but there is no known cure.