Why you should take a closer look at your eyes as you age

May 17, 2023 Providence Health Team


In this article:

  • During Healthy Vision Month in May, remember to make an appointment for your annual eye exam, which should include dilation.

  • Other tips for preventing vision loss include wearing sunglasses, using protective eyewear when necessary, and making a conscious effort to rest your eyes frequently.

  • Curious about which vision issues you might encounter as you age? We offer a list, along with the symptoms for each.

Take a moment to think about the activities you most enjoy doing in your life. How many of them require at least some amount of vision? Eyesight is an important part of our lives, but many of us take it for granted — until it’s too late. May is Healthy Vision Month, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Eye Institute encourage all Americans to make eye care a top health priority — both this month and moving forward.

How to prevent vision loss

So how, exactly, can you focus on your vision health? The CDC offers these tips to prevent vision loss:

1.     Undergo a full eye exam with dilation once every one or two years. Even if you aren’t noticing changes in your vision, it’s important to see an optometrist or ophthalmologist, who can perform a comprehensive exam. A dilated eye exam is important because it allows the doctor to look at the backs of your eyes and check for signs of disease. There are a number of common eye diseases — including glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic eye disease — that often have no warning signs. A well-timed eye exam could save your vision.

2.     Wear sunglasses. Not only do sunglasses have a practical function (they make it easier to perform activities outside because they prevent glare from the sun), but they can also protect your eye health. Choose sunglasses that have 100% UVA and UVB protection, which can prevent cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration.

3.     Make a conscious effort to rest your eyes. When you spend a lot of time staring at a screen (such as a TV or computer monitor), your eyes can become tired and you may experience vision problems. Try the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look away about 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds.

4.     Maintain your blood sugar levels. If you have diabetes, it is critical that you keep a close eye on your blood sugar. While complications from diabetes can cause blindness, this is preventable 90% of the time. Ask your doctor to help you set and reach goals surrounding your blood sugar levels.

5.     Wear protective eyewear. Eye problems can be the result of disease, but they can also occur as the result of an accident. When you are playing sports, working with heavy machinery or handling dangerous chemicals, wear safety glasses or goggles that are specially designed for that activity.

6.     Clean your hands when putting in or taking out contact lenses. Because contacts are such a routine part of the day, wearers may be tempted to handle them without washing their hands. This can lead to infection. The CDC provides tips for wearing contacts safely.

Eye conditions as you age

Even if you are quite faithful about maintaining your health and caring for your eyes, you may still experience age-related vision changes. In most cases, it’s best if you catch these changes early so you have a chance to slow or reverse the effects. Look for signs of the following age-related eye conditions:

  • Retinal disorders – This category of conditions includes macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy or retinal detachment. All of those conditions are very serious and should be treated as soon as possible. Symptoms can include blurred or lost vision or seeing floating specks or cobwebs, but you may not experience symptoms until it’s too late. That’s why a regular eye exam is so important.
  • Glaucoma – Glaucoma is one of the most common eye conditions as you age, and involves increased pressure in and around your eye. Symptoms include eye pain or pressure, headaches and rainbow-colored haloes around lights.
  • Presbyopia – This is a fancy term that refers to the inability to see close objects or small print. Do you find that reading books or a computer screen can lead to a headache? Do you sometimes need to hold recipes farther away in order to read them? It may be time to buy some reading glasses.
  • Cataracts – You can have cataracts in one or both eyes — they occur when the lens of the eye develops cloudy patches. Over time, they can cause blurred or misty vision. Symptoms can include difficulty seeing in dim light, blurred vision and sensitivity to light. Fortunately, there are several different surgical procedures that can remove cataracts.


Find a doctor

The team of eye specialists and ophthalmologists at Providence are here to keep your eye health and vision on track so you can experience all the beauty life has to offer. If you need to find a doctor, you can use our provider directory


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Related resources 

Healthy vision at work

Prevent glaucoma through regular eye exams

ER, urgent care or your doctor’s office?

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional’s instructions.

About the Author

The Providence Health Team brings together caregivers from diverse backgrounds to bring you clinically-sound, data-driven advice to help you live your happiest and healthiest selves.

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