How Aging Affects the Eyes

Growing older does not always mean you see poorly. But you may not see as well as you did before. Common changes that affect your eyes are:

•  “Aging Eyes.” The medical term for this is presbyopia (prez-bee-OH-pea-ah). This comes on slowly after age 40. Close objects or small print are harder to see. You may have to hold reading materials at arm’s length. You may get headaches or “tired eyes” while you read or do other close work. Presbyopia can be corrected with glasses or contact lenses.

•  The need for more light in order to see clearly. With aging, the pupil in the eye is unable to open as wide or to adapt to light as fast as it did before. This can make it harder to see in the dark. It can make it harder to tell one color from another. Blues can look like different shades of gray. To help with this, add more and brighter lights in places around the house, such as at work counters, stairways, and favorite reading places. This may help you see better and can sometimes prevent accidents. Also, don’t wear tinted glasses or sunglasses at night, especially when you drive.

Signs & Symptoms and What It Could Be

Signs & Symptoms: Seeing spots, specks, wavy lines, or streaks of light.


What It Could Be: Floaters and/or flashes.


See "Floaters and/or flashes" for more information.

Signs & Symptoms: Sudden loss of all or part of vision, especially in one eye with sudden weakness or numbness on one side.


What It Could Be: Stroke


What to Do: Get immediate care. Call 9-1-1.

Signs & Symptoms: Vision loss after head or eye injury. Sudden vision loss or blurred vision, and seeing dark spots, or flashes of light all of a sudden.


What It Could Be: Detached or torn retina.


What to Do: Get immediate care.

Signs & Symptoms: Severe pain in and above the eye. Eye redness, swollen upper eyelid. Dilated and fixed pupil. Very blurred vision, halos around lights.


What It Could Be: Angle-closure glaucoma.


What to Do: Get immediate care.

Signs & Symptoms: Object or chemical in the eye.


What It Could Be: Eye irritation or injury.


See "Eye Irritations & Injuries" for more information.

Signs & Symptoms: Gradual loss of side vision. Blurred vision. Halos around lights. Poor night vision.


What It Could Be: Open-angle or chronic glaucoma.


See "Glaucoma" for more information.

Signs & Symptoms: Dark or blind spot in center of vision. Blurred or cloudy vision. Straight lines look wavy.


What It Could Be: Macular degeneration.


See "Macular Degeneration" for more information.

Signs & Symptoms: Cloudy, fuzzy, foggy, or filmy vision. Halos around lights. Problems with glare from lamps or the sun.


What It Could Be: Cataract.


See "Cataracts" for more information.

Signs & Symptoms: Pus discharge from the eye; the white of the eye and eyelid are red; crusting of the eyelid in the morning; feeling of sand in the eye


What It Could Be: Conjunctivitis (“Pink Eye”).


See "Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)" for more information.

Signs & Symptoms: Firm lump on eyelid or tender pimple on the edge of the eyelid.


What It Could Be: Stye.


See "Stye" for more information.

Signs & Symptoms: Blurred vision when you look at close objects; headaches; eyestrain.


What It Could Be: “Aging Eyes” or presbyopia.


What to Do: Call eye doctor for an appointment and advice.

This website is not meant to substitute for expert medical advice or treatment. Follow your doctor’s or health care provider’s advice if it differs from what is given in this guide.


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