4 Eye Diseases You’re At Risk for As You Age

By Marlo Sollitto, AgingCare.com contributing editor

By age 65, 1-in-3 Americans have some form of vision-impairing eye disease.
There are four major age-related eye diseases (AREDs) — glaucoma, cataracts, age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy that affect seniors.


Glaucoma damages the eye’s optic nerve and results in vision loss and blindness. Sometimes, there are no initial symptoms, so as many as 1 million people may have glaucoma and do not know they have it. It is one of the main causes of blindness in the United States.

At first, glaucoma has no symptoms. However, as the disease progresses, a person with glaucoma may notice his or her side vision gradually failing.

There are many different types of medications (in eye drops or pills) that are used to treat glaucoma. In some people, however, medications alone do not control the eye pressure, and surgery needs to be performed. One type of surgery uses a laser — called trabeculoplasty — to improve the flow of fluids out of the eye. This can be done in your doctor’s office. There is also conventional surgery — called trabeculectomy — in which your doctor creates a new drainage path in the eye, under the eyelid.

Warning Signs That Point to Age-Related Eye Disease

Risk factors for glaucoma include: age, family history of glaucoma, taking steroid medications and being near-sighted.

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4 Eye Disease to Look Out For As You Age originally appeared on AgingCare.com


A cataract is a clouding of the lens within the eye. The lens is composed of water and protein. If the protein clumps together, it starts to cloud over a small area of the lens. This cloudy mass of protein — called a cataract — can grow larger, making it hard to see. If the cataract worsens, surgery may be necessary to remove the cloudy lens and replace it with a new lens.

People with cataracts begin to complain about glare and cloudy/fuzzy vision, double vision in one eye, or glare from lamps and the sun. Surgery is the only way to correct vision loss caused by cataracts.

Getting older is a major risk factor for cataracts. Women are at slightly higher risk than men for cataracts, and people with a family history of cataracts are more likely to have cataracts.

Macular Degeneration

Macular Degeneration (MD) diminishes sight in a dramatic way: It affects the central vision. Although people with MD rarely go blind because of it, many find it difficult to read, drive and perform other daily functions. The macula is located in the center of the retina, which is the light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the eye. Deterioration of the macula results in eye disease. Macular Degeneration affects central vision. People with MD find it difficult to read, drive and perform other daily functions that require central vision.

People with Macular Degeneration can be treated with laser surgery. Anti-angiogenesis drugs and low-vision devices are also useful.

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Age is the biggest risk factor for developing MD. After age 75, up to 46 percent of people may have some form of it. Family history, race (whites appear to have a higher risk than blacks or Hispanics) and smoking are other risk factors.

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4 Eye Disease to Look Out For As You Age originally appeared on AgingCare.com

Diabetic Retinopathy

This potentially blinding disorder is a complication of diabetes. Diabetes causes abnormal changes in the retina’s blood vessels. Blood vessels can become leaky and begin to grow where they should not. These new vessels tend to break and bleed, or hemorrhage. As they try to heal, these blood vessels will contract and detach the retina.

Diabetic Retinopathy symptoms include shadows or dark objects that “float” across your field of vision, blurred or distorted vision, partial loss of vision and pain in the eye. Consistently high blood sugar and high blood pressure are associated with retinopathy. If your loved one has type 2 diabetes and uses the medicine rosiglitazone (Avandia, Avandamet, Avandaryl) to treat your diabetes, you may have a higher risk for problems.

There is no cure for diabetic retinopathy. However, laser treatment (photocoagulation) is usually very effective at preventing vision loss if it is done before the retina has been severely damaged. Surgical removal of the vitreous gel (vitrectomy) may also help improve vision if the retina has not been severely damaged.

Eye Tests Everyone Should Have

Age-related eye diseases are diagnosed through a comprehensive exam, performed by an ophthalmologist. A comprehensive eye exam should include at least the following three tests:

  • Visual acuity test: The familiar eye chart measures how well you see at various distances.
  • Pupil dilation: Drops are placed into the eye to widen the pupil. This reveals more of the retina and other signs of disease. After the examination, close-up vision may remain blurred for several hours.
  • Tonometry: A standard test that determines the fluid pressure inside the eye. There are many types of tonometry. One uses a purple light to measure pressure; another, an “air puff,” test, which measures the resistance of the eye to a puff of air.

How Glaucoma Is Diagnosed and Treated
Diabetic Retinopathy Can Lead to Blindness
An Overview of Age-Related Macular Degeneration

4 Eye Disease to Look Out For As You Age originally appeared on AgingCare.com

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Lucy G.
Lucy Gray2 years ago

I am 23 and have to work for hours while looking on computer screen. What should I do on regular basis to avoid eye problems?

Sharon Karson
Sharon Karson4 years ago

Great information. Thanks for an informative article.

Paula L.
Paula L.4 years ago

Thanks, good information. I have a condition my eye doctor says they have yet to know for sure what causes it. I have one eye that has developed blisters. I have to use an ointment at night, as they seem to swell with fluid during the sleeping period and a drop to use in the day to help dry them up. I have noticed that when my allergies flare up so do the blisters in that eye. It is like looking through a glass of water. I don't know if they have a name for this condition, my doc didn't say what it was called. I will ask him next time I am there. He did say it was a rare condition. I am certainly glad it has only attacked one of my eyes. Because it seriously distorts your vision.

If there is anyone else who has info on this sort of condition I would like to hear about it.

Terrie D.
Terrie D.4 years ago


Magdalena K.
Past Member 4 years ago


Jane R.
Jane R.4 years ago

Thanks for the info. I am a smoker, I have high blood pressure, high ocular pressure, small cataracts, dry eyes etc. I use drops for the pressure, drops for dry eyes and have had a laser hole made in the iris. Doesn't look good for me!!

Nur O.
nur o.4 years ago

Thank you

Morgan Getham
Morgan Getham4 years ago

One problem that is not quite so common but is certainly difficult to deal with is retinal vascular occlusion. In this condition, one or more small blood vessels at the back of the eye push their way forward and actually cover part of the retina, blocking all light in that particular part of the vision field.

As a test for this, the patient is asked to look into a device that has one darkened "field" for each eye. Tiny lights are then blinked on quickly at random in all areas, and the patient pushes a button whenever a light is seen. From this, a "map" of the patient's vision field can be drawn. In my own case, from the middle of the right eye downward, I did not record a single blinking light. That part of my vision is simply covered up, and has been for more than a decade. It's gone. This is particularly annoying since I need glasses for reading, and this peculiarity makes bifocals rather ineffective (since the "reading" part of bifocals is usually just in the lower part of the field of vision).

Loo Samantha
Loo sam4 years ago

thanks for the article.

Ida J.
Ida J.4 years ago

good to know