September is Healthy Aging Month and during this time, the American Academy of Ophthalmology aims to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of vision loss – and steps to help seniors take care of their sight. So, when exactly should you start worrying about your eye health? Well, the short answer is that eye health is important at all ages, but Middle-aged adults will begin to notice slight changes in their vision, which can progress over time.

According to the American Optometric Association, beginning in the early to mid-40s, many adults may start to have problems seeing clearly at close distances, especially when reading and working on the computer. This is among the most common problems adults develop between ages 41 to 60. This normal change in the eyes’ focusing ability, called presbyopia, will continue to progress over time.

Initially, you may need to hold reading materials farther away to see them clearly. Or you may need to remove your glasses to see better up close. Print in the newspaper or on a restaurant menu may appear blurred, especially under dim lighting.

If you already wear prescription glasses or contact lenses to see clearly in the distance, these changes in your near vision can be corrected by switching to bifocal spectacles or multifocal contact lenses. Fortunately, people with presbyopia now have many options to improve their vision.

Adults over 40 who have the following health or work issues may be particularly at risk for developing eye and vision problems:

  • Chronic, systemic conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
  • A family history of glaucoma or macular degeneration.
  • A highly visually demanding job or work in an eye-hazardous occupation.
  • Health conditions related to high cholesterol, thyroid, anxiety or depression, and arthritis for which you take medications. Many medications, even antihistamines, have vision side effects.

Understanding age-related vision changes

Just like your body, your eyes and vision change over time. While not everyone will experience the same symptoms, the following are common age-related vision changes:

  • Need for more light
  • Difficulty reading and doing close work
  • Problems with a glare 
  • Changes in color perception
  • Reduced tear production 

Warning signs of eye health problems

This is also the time in life when your risk for developing several eye and vision problems increases. The following symptoms could be the early warning signs of a serious eye health problem:

  • Fluctuating vision
  • Seeing floaters and flashes
  • Loss of side vision
  • Seeing distorted images

During these years, schedule a comprehensive eye examination with your primary optometrist or ophthalmologist at least every two years to check for developing eye and vision problems. 

*Sources: American Academy of Ophthalmology. American Optometric Association