12 Signs Your Vision Changes Aren't A Normal Part Of Ageing

If you're experiencing any of these problems, you might want to make an appointment with your eye doctor ASAP.
Our eyesight gets worse as we get older, but some issues aren't part of the normal aging process.
Olga Rolenko via Getty Images
Our eyesight gets worse as we get older, but some issues aren't part of the normal aging process.

Finding yourself suddenly needing reading glasses (then subsequently forgetting where you put them) is a common part of getting older. But not all vision changes can be explained away by age alone — and some could even lead to permanent damage to your eyesight if not treated promptly.

“It is important not to assume that changes in your vision are just a normal, inevitable part of ageing,” Dr. Carl Danzig, a board-certified ophthalmologist and Director of Vitreo-Retinal Services at the Rand Eye Institute in Deerfield Beach, Florida, told HuffPost. “Excellent treatment options exist for many conditions, and it is best to identify any pathology before it becomes too serious, leading to irreversible vision loss.”

Having trouble seeing things up close is common as we age, according to Danzig, but there are also a host of other eye issues and diseases that are more likely to develop in older people.

“Aging increases the risk of developing eye problems that can lead to loss of vision,” said Dr. Thomas Patrianakos, a board-certified ophthalmologist and chair of ophthalmology surgery at Cook County Health in Chicago. “A full eye exam allows the doctor a better look at the retina and optic nerve so they can identify any potential problems and intervene as early as possible.”

“Eye exams can also help identify certain systemic diseases, like diabetes and high blood pressure,” he continued.

Here are some signs that the vision changes you are experiencing are not a regular part of aging:

Sudden blurred vision.

It’s common for vision to slowly change over time, but if you experience sudden blurred vision, it could be a cause for concern. In fact, Danzig warned this is a symptom of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is the leading cause of irreversible vision loss in people over 60 if left untreated.

Wet AMD, which is a form of AMD, can cause “sudden and severe vision loss by damaging the retina in the back of the eye,” Danzig said. This is the result of “uncontrolled growth of new blood vessels, which can lead to fluid leakage into the part of your eye that provides sharp central vision.” Treatment can often help improve your vision if you act quickly.

Blurred vision is also a symptom of diabetic eye disease and cataracts.

Blind spots in the middle of your vision.

Blind spots ― also called scotomas ― are another symptom of AMD. Dry AMD, another type of AMD, could be the culprit. It’s “a slow deterioration of the cells of the macula, often over many years, as the retinal cells die off and are not renewed,” according to the Macular Society.

Difficulty distinguishing colours.

If you find yourself struggling to determine what colour you’re looking at, or colors appear faded, this is another sign to get checked out by the doctor. It could hint toward AMD as well.

Straight lines appearing wavy.

You might notice this when you’re driving and the painted lines on the road suddenly look like a child’s scribbled attempt at straight. This is another symptom that should bring you to the eye doctor “right away,” according to Danzig — especially because it could affect your everyday activities like reading, driving and seeing faces.

Double vision.

No, it’s not twins — you’re actually just seeing double. If you experience double vision, it could be a sign of diabetic eye disease, which encompasses glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema and cataracts.

“All people with diabetes are at risk for vision complications, which can progress to a more serious vision-threatening condition called diabetic macular edema,” Danzig said. “It occurs when blood vessels in the retina are damaged by high blood sugar and leak into and cause swelling in the back of the eye.”

Loss of contrast can be incredibly dangerous when driving.
Westend61 via Getty Images
Loss of contrast can be incredibly dangerous when driving.

Loss of contrast.

This symptom may be harder to tell on an eye exam, which is typically a high-contrast black and white, but it can have disastrous consequences for driving or walking in low-contrast situations. You may notice loss of contrast if you have difficulty reading signs with similar colours or problems differentiating between objects, especially on the road or sidewalk. Contrast sensitivity can be a sign of eye disease.

Flashes or floaters.

Flashes are like “lightning bolts in the peripheral vision,” according to Danzig, while floaters “can resemble dots, strings, hairs, webs or clouds in someone’s vision.” If you notice a sudden increase in flashes and/or floaters, it could be a sign of a retina tear or detachment.

“A tear is commonly treated with laser in order to hopefully prevent retina detachment,” Danzig explained. “Once a detachment is present, surgery is usually performed to treat this blinding condition.”

Patches of vision loss.

Losing your vision for a period of time can be a sign of diabetic eye disease or the progressed diabetic macular edema, which “is a leading cause of vision loss among working age adults in the United States,” according to Danzig. He added that “detection and treatment are critical to preserve vision.”

Transient loss of vision can also be a sign of carotid artery disease, cardiac emboli or a migraine.

Loss of peripheral vision.

If you experience tunnel vision and can’t see out of your peripherals anymore, you should make an appointment with your ophthalmologist. This could be a symptom of glaucoma, “which occurs when there is fluid buildup in the eye that leads to optic nerve damage,” according to Danzig.

“Most people don’t initially have symptoms so it can go unnoticed for years, with patients unknowingly losing peripheral vision,” he said.

Vision haziness.

Hazy or opaque vision could be a sign of cataracts, which are “a common cause of decreased vision as we get older,” Patrianakos said.

“The most common symptom of cataracts is a generalised haziness in your vision,” he explained.

Glare or halo around lights.

Often seen when you’re driving at night, a glare or halo around lights may be another sign of cataracts, Patrianakos said. Cataracts can lead to vision loss, but they are easily and safely treated with surgery.

Tired eyes.

Anyone can feel tired eyes at some point (especially if you haven’t been getting enough sleep), but experiencing it often or without a known cause could be a sign of dry eye syndrome. According to Patrianakos, dry eye syndrome is “when there is inadequate tears in the eyes” that can be seen at any age. It can be treated with artificial tears, lid scrubs and warm compresses.

All of this is why getting regular eye exams is important for everyone, even if you have 20/20 vision.

“The best way to stay ahead of more serious eye conditions is to schedule an annual dilated eye exam with an eye doctor, especially if you notice any subtle changes in your vision or have been diagnosed with diabetes,” Danzig said.

These exams are your best chance at detecting any changes in your vision or eyes — which is especially important because “some conditions don’t present symptoms early on,” Danzig continued. “Early detection and effective treatment may help stop conditions from getting worse and help preserve vision.”

If something feels off about your vision, make sure to see an eye doctor right away. Effective monitoring and early treatment can make a world of difference.