Your vision can change over time. So, if you’ve recently noticed that your eyes aren’t as reliable as they used to be, you’re not alone. Many of us experience changes in our eyesight, whether it manifests as squinting to read street signs or holding our smartphone at arm’s length to see details.
A gradual decline in vision can be puzzling. But, there can be several reasons for your worsening eyesight, such as age-related changes, eye strain, lifestyle factors, and medical or other eye conditions. Your eye doctor can help determine the underlying cause of your vision problems with the help of an eye exam.
Age-Related Eye Conditions
One of the primary reasons behind deteriorating eyesight is the natural changes our eyes undergo that can affect their functionality. As we approach our mid-40s and beyond, a common age-related condition called presbyopia can make it more difficult to focus on nearby objects, like the fine print on a menu.
Presbyopia occurs because the eye’s lens (part of the eye responsible for focusing) becomes less flexible and hardens over time. With an aging lens, light can’t focus on the retina (the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye), making nearby objects blurry.
Our screens have become more like loyal companions in today’s digital age. But they might be contributing to your vision struggles. Staring at screens, such as computer monitors, phones, televisions, or tablets, for prolonged periods can lead to computer vision syndrome, also known as digital eye strain.
Long hours spent in front of screens leads to blinking less and can cause symptoms such as:
- Dry eyes
- Watery eyes
- Redness & irritation
- Blurry vision
- Sore neck & shoulders
Your lifestyle choices can affect your eyesight. Smoking, for instance, isn’t just bad for your lungs—it can also harm your eyes. Smoking can increase your risk of developing several eye diseases, including age-related macular degeneration.
A diet low in essential nutrients can contribute to worsening eyesight, as these play a crucial role in maintaining eye health and protecting against age-related conditions. A nutritious diet with lots of fruits and vegetables can promote eye health and may boost your resistance to eye disease.
Some eye conditions are hereditary, so if your parents or grandparents have a history of vision problems, you are more likely to experience them yourself. Refractive errors, such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism, can be hereditary.
Glaucoma and keratoconus are some other hereditary eye diseases. It’s important to inform your eye doctor if you have a family history of eye conditions so that they can provide you with appropriate preventive care.
Medical Conditions & Medications
Medical health conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, can impact your vision. Diabetes or high blood sugar can affect the small blood vessels in your eyes and can cause blurry vision.
If you have diabetes, your eye doctor will likely recommend having a diabetic eye exam once a year to detect and monitor signs of eye disease related to diabetes. Diabetes can also increase your risk of developing the following conditions:
- Cataracts: Occurs when the eye’s lens becomes cloudy, leading to blurry or hazy vision.
- Glaucoma: Occurs when there is damage to the optic nerve in the eye, often due to high eye pressure.
- Diabetic retinopathy: This is related to diabetes that causes damage to the blood vessels in the eye.
- Diabetic macular edema: Results from diabetic retinopathy, causing swelling of the macula.
Additionally, medications you’re taking for other issues might have adverse effects on your eyes, such as blurry vision, sensitivity to light, and dry eyes. If you’re experiencing unexpected vision changes, consult your eye doctor and primary healthcare provider to rule out medication.
How To Protect Your Vision
While you can’t prevent all age-related changes or hereditary factors from affecting your eyes, there are things you can do to keep your eyes healthy and protect your vision.
- Go for regular eye exams. These aren’t just for those who already wear glasses or contact lenses—they’re crucial for everyone. Eye exams can spot potential issues early on, allowing for timely treatment.
- Manage and maintain your blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels.
- Know your family’s eye and medical history.
- Maintain a healthy diet and weight.
- Wear protective eyewear such as sunglasses.
- Avoid smoking.
- Reduce screen time and incorporate healthy digital device practices.
Preserving Your Vision
Your eyes are precious, and caring for them should be a priority. From age-related changes and computer vision syndrome to genetics and lifestyle choices, there are many reasons for your worsening eyesight. The good news is that with visits to your eye doctor and preventive measures, you can preserve your eyesight.