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 a loss of vision to either side. Some types of 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 a sign of 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 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.
DO NOT smoke.
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.
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: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 613.
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. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 431.
Franklin W. Lusby, MD, ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.