Our Aging Eyes

Have you ever wondered what happens to the visual system as we age? What does the term "second sight" mean? What is presbyopia? What are the eyes more susceptible to as the aging process occurs? What can be done to prevent certain aging factors of the eye? The answer lies in a theory known as apoptosis (no that's not the name of the latest pop artist).

Apoptosis is the pre-programmed life of every cell in our body. Most studies show that it's a function of our programmed DNA. It's the ability for cells to survive and thrive in the anatomical environment. The body's ability to withstand and thrive during the aging process depends on proper nutrition, good mental health, exercise, and adequate oxygen supply. That's why studies have shown smoking can shorten your life by a decade or more.

In regards to aging and the eye, there is a phenomina during the 6th to 7th decade of life called "second sight". This is simply progressive nearsightedness in older adults secondary to cataracts. Close to 50% of the population over 60 years old has cataracts. Cataracts are a clouding of the natural lens of the eye that can impair vision causing glare and loss of detail. When patients experience second  sight, it is sometimes quite convenient for them: they see up close without the reading glasses they have been depended on since their 40s.

Another aspect of the aging process is losing your reading vision you had all your life. This is called Presbyopia. Presbyopia is a Latin term which means "old eyes."

What happens in Presbyopia?

Before our mid-forties, the natural lens of the eye is very pliable and can easily focus on items up close. But in our mid-forties, the lens tends to lose its elasticity. Whenexperiencing presbyopia, people generally hold reading material farther away to see it more clearly. Presbyopia can be managed through bifocal or multifocal glasses or contact lenses, and some surgeries.

As aging occurs, the eyes are more susceptible to cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration and vascular disorders of the eye as well as dry eye syndrome.

To help prevent and manage these conditions, there are a variety of options.

  1. Maintaining yearly dilated eye exams for preventative care.
  2. Protect your eyes against the sun with UV sunglasses.
  3. Take antioxidant vitamins to help bolster the protection of the macula.
  4. Use artificial tears to hydrate the eye and keep your body hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
  5. Keep emotional, physical, and mental stress to a minimum.

Being educated on how we age is the first steph towards good ocular health and diminished chances of early apoptosis.

Vision Problems Following Concussion

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than 2.8 million people in the United States suffer a concussion -- or traumatic brain injury (TBI) -- every year, and vision can be affected.

The rate of childhood TBI visits to the emergency department more than doubled between 2001 and 2009, making children more likely than any other group to go to the ER with concussion symptoms.

It was once assumed that the hallmark of a concussion was a loss of consciousness. More recent evidence, however, does not support that. In fact, the majority of people diagnosed with a concussion do not experience any loss of consciousness. The most common immediate symptoms are amnesia and confusion.

There also are multiple visual symptoms that can occur with a concussion, either initially or during the recovery phase.

Visual symptoms after a concussion include:

  • Blurred vision.

  • Difficulty reading.

  • Double vision.

  • Light sensitivity.

  • Headaches accompanying visual tasks.

  • Loss of peripheral vision.

Most people with visual complaints after a concussion have 20/20 distance visual acuity so more specific testing of near acuity, convergence amplitudes, ocular motility, and peripheral vision must be done.

In a study done at the Minds Matter Concussion Program at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, patients with a concussion diagnosis underwent extensive vision testing, which assessed symptoms, visual acuity, eye alignment, near point of convergence, vergence amplitude and facility, accommodative amplitude and facility, and saccadic eye movement speed and accuracy.

A total of 72 children (mean age 14.6 years) were examined, and 49 (68%) of those were found to have one or more vision symptoms after concussion. The most common problems were convergence insufficiency (47.2%); accommodative insufficiency (33.3%); saccadic dysfunction (30.5%); and accommodative infacility (11.1%). The investigators also found that 64% of the children with convergence insufficiency also had an accommodative disorder.

Difficulties with accommodation and convergence make it very hard to read for any length of time, with blurring and fatigue and then loss of concentration occurring after a fairly short period of reading time.

For the majority of people suffering a mild to moderate TBI, most of these symptoms resolve in one to three weeks but in some they can persist much longer.

If your visual symptoms after a concussion persist past three weeks, a visit with an eye care specialist is recommended. There may be several options to help improve the symptoms with either prescription eyeglasses or prisms to assist the two eyes to focus together.

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Our doctors and staff are committed to providing thorough care with personal attention. At Eye Doctors of Madison, you will find the compassionate care of a small-town doctors' office with the knowledge of a big-city institution. It is our mission to not only treat each patient uniquely but also like family.

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