Your Eye Health: 5 Common Age-Related Eye Problems

Refractive errors are the leading cause of visual impairment worldwide with an estimated 43% of impairments attributed to errors including hyperopia, myopia, and astigmatism. For many people, refractive errors may worsen over time, increasing their need for higher prescription visual aids. However, even the lucky ones who have enjoyed clear, glasses-free vision for their whole lives could one day find their eye health deteriorating as they get older.

Of course, just like any other part of the body, the eyes go through a natural ageing process. This can lead to general deterioration of your vision; however, it is possible to retain great vision for years to come. Nonetheless, there are also a number of age-related conditions that can further affect your eyes.

It is important to be aware of these potential eye problems, their warning signs, and the best ways to prevent them. So, let’s take a look at five of the most common age-related eye problems.

Dry Eye Syndrome/Disease

Dry eye is a common condition that can affect anyone at any age. It is estimated to affect around a third of adults in the UK; however, it becomes more common as we get older.

Dry eye – also known as Dry Eye Syndrome (DES) or Dry Eye Disease (DED) – is characterised by dryness on the eye’s surface due to lack of lubrication. It is caused by disruption to the tear film which may be the result of dysfunction in one or more components of the lacrimal gland, the eye’s surface, the eyelids, or the nervous system.

This means the eye doesn’t produce enough liquid to effectively lubricate the eyes, which is essential in protecting them from infection. This can cause symptoms including irritation, itchiness, or a burning/gritty sensation.

Protecting your eyes from dryness

There is no magic cure for dry eyes but thankfully, you can do several things to relieve the condition. Artificial tears, or lubricating eye drops, can be extremely helpful in soothing the symptoms of dry eyes by providing a quick boost of moisture.

Some things can make dry eyes worse. For example, being exposed to windy conditions, close to an air conditioner, or looking at a screen for long periods. Wearing sunglasses outdoors can protect your eyes from wind, debris, and UV rays that can cause further harm to your eyes.

Limiting your screen time and practising the 20/20/20 method can also help to prevent digital eye strain and dryness associated with screen exposure.

Diabetic Retinopathy

While it’s easy to think of our eyes operating as a separate entity from the rest of our body, the fact is that they are part of a complex system – a system that is also linked to other systems in the body. For this reason, our eyes can often act as an indicator when something isn’t quite right with other aspects of our health.

Diabetes, for example, is a relatively common condition that is characterised by low levels of insulin. This causes blood levels to become too high and can lead to a number of health complications. For the eyes, this can mean the development of a condition called Diabetic Retinopathy.

An estimated 6% of the UK population (or roughly 4.8 million people) are estimated to be living with diabetes. Of these, around a quarter may develop diabetic retinopathy; however, the prevalence is much higher in patients with Type 2 diabetes. Age can also be a risk factor in the development of the condition.

Detecting Diabetic Retinopathy

In severe cases, Diabetic Retinopathy can lead to visual impairment and even blindless. The earliest signs of the condition often go unnoticed by the patient; however, they can be detected by your eye doctor during a routine eye exam. Therefore, attending regular eye tests is extremely important, particularly if you have existing health conditions.

Macular Degeneration

Macular Degneration condition is thought to affect around 600,000 people in the UK – a figure that is predicted to double by 2050. It is most common in people over the age of 60, hence why it is widely referred to as Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD).

Macular Degeneration occurs when the macular – the central area of the retina at the back of the eye – becomes damaged. This causes distortion in your central field of vision, making it more difficult to make out fine details, both up close and at a distance. This can make recognising faces, reading, and performing everyday tasks harder.

AMD is a degenerative condition which means it gets worse over time. While there is no cure for the condition, some treatments can help to slow the associated loss of vision.


Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness, worldwide. They are considered a natural part of the eye’s ageing process and develop when the proteins in the lens of the eye begin to break down. Over time, these proteins clump together forming an obstruction in the eye.

Cataracts commonly appear as cloudy areas in the lenses. This can lead to blurry vision, changes in the way we see colours, and problems with glare and night vision. While there are several different kinds of cataracts, age is the biggest risk factor for the condition. Around half of people over the age of 80 are affected by cataracts.

Treating Cataracts

Thankfully, a simple procedure, called Cataract Surgery, is extremely effective at managing the condition and restoring vision. It is estimated that around 330,000 operations are performed every year in England alone. It’s a very quick and effective procedure, typically taking thirty minutes or less, and it can help people retain clear vision for many more years.

Cataract Surgery involves removing the natural cataract-affected lens and replacing it with an artificial one – known as an intraocular lens (IOL). This is the only way to get rid of cataracts.


Presbyopia – or ‘old eye’ – is an inevitable part of getting older. Eventually, we will all begin to experience the deterioration of our near-focusing ability – a symptom that characterises presbyopia.

This is the result of a loss of flexibility in the lens. Meanwhile, the muscles that pull the lens into focus also become weaker, further reducing the eyes’ ability to focus at different distances. Over time, this makes it increasingly difficult to focus on objects that are close to you, such as the text in a newspaper or the numbers on your mobile phone.

How to Manage Presbyopia

Most people will begin to notice the symptoms of presbyopia at around the age of 40. Initially, most people will use reading glasses to help re-focus their vision when performing close tasks. However, contact lenses can also be used.

More recently, however, a revolutionary Laser Eye Surgery procedure has helped to restore the near vision of thousands of people with presbyopia.

Pioneered by Professor Dan Reinstein, PRESBYOND Laser Blended Vision is an innovative procedure that can significantly reduce, or even eliminate, the need for reading glasses, bifocals, or varifocals for many years.

To find out more about Laser Eye Surgery and other treatments for age-related eye problems, get in touch with one of our friendly clinic coordinators or Book a Consultation today.