Few parts of the body have been as romanticized in poetry and other forms of literature as the eyes. Whether you subscribed to the eyes as being the windows of the soul or the beholder of beauty, they still serve a very practical and necessary function- the eyes allow you to see.
Like every other part of the body, your eyes go through a remarkable transition as you age from infancy into adulthood. To help you gain a better appreciation of how your eyes work and what you can expect to change as you grow older, here’s how your vision changes over the years.
At birth, the eyes of newborns are incredibly sensitive to light but cannot register colors very well or focus on objects. While during the first few weeks of life the world may appear as a blurry realm of grays and whites, after four weeks a child can start to focus on objects less than three feet away. By the time a child reaches four months of age, he can start to see across the room and a full spectrum of colors begin to manifest.
A child should undergo her first eye exam at some point between six months and a year, and many eye doctors recommend a child undergo a comprehensive eye exam by the time she turns three. By this age, the early signs of vision problems such as lazy eye or nearsightedness should become apparent. A yearly eye exam should include tests that determine overall eye health and visual sharpness.
Roughly one out of every four school-age children has some type of vision problem, usually nearsightedness. Unfortunately, despite the need for corrective lenses, only a third of all children undergo an eye exam prior to string school. Most experts recommend that a child receive an eye exam prior to starting the first grade, and then undergo subsequent exams every two years after.
Because a child’s eyes continue to develop as they grow older, children who are nearsighted will often have their vision worsen until they reach 20.
Of course, nearsightedness isn’t the only eye problem that can afflict young children, as roughly three percent of all kids suffer from amblyopia, more commonly known as lazy eye. The condition occurs when nerve signals traveling between one eye and the brain fail to properly work. Fortunately, the majority of children who suffer from a lazy eye can have the condition corrected by wearing an eye patch over the stronger eye.
One of the first signs that a person has reached middle age is the need for reading glasses. By the time most people reach their mid-40s, they’ll need some kind of assistance performing up-close tasks, such as reading. This change in vision is referred to as presbyopia and is a completely normal part of aging. To correct this condition, you can try wearing special contacts, bifocals, or reading glasses. In some instances, undergoing laser surgery can provide some assistance.
Presbyopia occurs due to a loss of flexibility in the lenses of the eye. Prior to turning 40, the lens in each eye remains incredibly flexible, but that flexibility wanes the older a person becomes. Over time, this reduction in flexibility reduces a person’s ability to view objects clearly up-close. You might first notice the signs of presbyopia when you need to move a magazine or menu farther away in order to see it clearly.
The older a person becomes, the more underlying health conditions can begin to affect his or her vision. Chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes can have a negative effect on the health of your eyes and vision. Diabetes, for example, ranks as the leading cause of blindness among adults, while high blood pressure can damage nerves and blood vessels in the eye, leading to permanent vision loss.
For seniors over 60, one of the most common and serious eye conditions they must contend with is glaucoma. A deterioration of the nerves in the eye, glaucoma often creates excessive pressure in the eye and can be treated through surgery or the use of eye drops.
Keep in mind as you age, that eye health depends on the individual. By undergoing eye exams every few years, and talking with your doctor about any loss of vision, you should be able to keep your eyes healthy and seeing clearly for years to come.