Visual aging is a natural process that affects us all sooner or later. If you are over 40 years of age, the world probably looks different from the one you knew at 30. The colors seem less vibrant, images are not as sharp, the newspaper is decipherable only when almost plastered to your nose, walking down the stairs is a challenge. All these are symptoms of visual aging and age-related vision loss.

Vision loss can result from many factors, but it is primarily a reflection of changes in the eye's optics. The problem of visual aging and vision loss can be further compounded if certain occular disorders develop with age. Some of the common ones are:

Presbyopia: A condition, which develops with age, this is the loss of the power of accomodation. It is caused by a change in the refractive ability of the lenses. The eye is unable to change focus and accomodate within normal reading distance. As a result it may become difficult to bring small print into focus without holding it at arms length.

One way of delaying, even preventing presbyopia, is to keep the eye muscles flexible. Eye exercises are proven to be the most effective in combating eyesight problems related to refraction.

Loss in Contrast Sensitivity: Contrast sensitivity is the ability to distinguish light from dark areas, and objects from their background. What happens, as we age, is that white areas begin to look brighter - this does not cause a problem. The dark areas, however, appear darker, and when they merge into the background, it may become impossible to see the object distinctly.

Loss of contrast sensitivity is caused by age-related changes in the spherical abberations of the cornea and the lenses. In a young eye the positive spherical abberation of the average cornea is balanced out by the negative spherical abberation of the crystalline lens. This balance enables light to focus onto the retina to produce a high-contrast image.

With age, the spherical abberation of the lens becomes increasingly positive; it can no longer compensate for the shape of the cornea. This causes the light entering the eye to scatter before it hits the retina. As a result the image on the retina is no longer sharp and clear.

The loss of ability to disguish dark from darker can functionally incapacitate one, making it unsafe to drive or go out at night. Poor quality of vision can seriously impair the quality of life, slowing one down, causing undue fatigue and leading to impaired judgement. Daily activities involving close-up work and walking up and down the stairs also become affected due to loss of contrast sensitivity.

When our eyes are young they contain high concentrations of natural antioxidants that protect against cataract, macular degeneration and other eye disorders. However, degenerative changes in the eye often begin in middle age, resulting in macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts and other forms of retinopathy in later life.

As we enter middle age, synthesis of the antioxidant glutathione is reduced, resulting in excessive free radical damage. Free radicals for the most part cause cataracts and other senile eye disorders. Oxidative stress is also a contributing factor in the development of macular degeneration.

Macular Degeneration: The macula is the central part of the retina, and is responsible for identifying detail in the field of vision. A progresive disorder, connected with aging, macular degeneration affects the central part of the retina and causes loss of vision in the elderly. Retinal nerve tissue gets destroyed, and afflicted persons may develop an area of blindness which affects normal sight. Identification of detail, and even recognition of faces and characters in print, may become difficult.

Glaucoma: This is a condition in which the fluid pressure within the eye increases to such a level as to cause damage the eye. Excessive pressure could lead to compression and obstruction of the small blood vessels that supply the optic nerve. Glaucoma can lead to gradual loss of vision, and progress to blindness.

Cataract: Progressive loss in clarity of vision occurs with age as the lenses of the eyes become opaque - a condition which is extremely common. When cataract develops, the cloudy lens both obstructs and diffuses light, making eyesight less clear. Cataracts are normally treated by surgical removal and implant of new lenses. But many prefer non-invasive treatments.

A breakthrough treatment for cataracts was featured in the UK on the Richard & Judy Television Show.

A tip for preserving eye health - as you progress in age, it becomes increasingly necessary to maintain the elasticity of the eye muscles. The proven method of doing so is through specially formulated eye exercises.

And last but not least, make sure you take the correct nutritional supplements for the eyes. Antioxidant supplements, taken orally, have been shown to help protect against senile eye disorders. Sometimes topical applications are most suitable, especially if the blood circulation is sluggish, thereby affecting blood circulation to the eye and reducing the effectiveness of ingested supplements.

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