It’s a fact of life for adults. Just like wrinkles, slowing metabolism and graying hair, your eyes are eventually affected by age. It’s important to understand how your eyes change with age and what you can do to keep them in the best health possible.

Here is a summary of common eye conditions and diseases experienced at different stages of adulthood. Some of these changes are normal, age-related developments. Others may be signs of a vision-threatening disease or condition. But all of these are reasons why the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that everyone start seeing an ophthalmologist at age 40 to ensure early diagnosis and treatment that may save your sight.

Presbyopia

Beginning in the late 30s and early 40s, the lens in your eye loses flexibility, making it difficult to read up close. This condition is called presbyopia (which literally means “aging eye”) and is commonly treated with over-the-counter reading glasses, though other treatments are also available.

Dry eye

Dry eye develops with age and is a common problem for women during pregnancy and menopause. These hormonal changes cause changes in the eye’s tear production. Certain medications can also cause dry eye. If you have dry eye, you may be prone to an eyelid irritation called blepharitis, a common cause of irritation or swelling of the eyelids. In addition to seeing an ophthalmologist, there are many simple things you can do at home to keep your eyes moist.

Diabetic retinopathy

People in their 50s, 60s and 70s with diabetes are most at risk for this disease. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the small blood vessels inside the retina swell, leak fluid or close off completely due to elevated blood sugar levels. But, you can take steps to prevent diabetic retinopathy with tight control of blood sugar and blood pressure levels. It is also critical to see your ophthalmologist regularly for diabetic retinopathy screening exams.

Learn more from the American Academy of Ophthalmology