What You Need To Know About Senior Vision Problems

Key Points

  • Common senior vision problems include cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

  • Proper nutrition reduces your risk of senior vision problems.

  • Use adaptable design and devices to retain your independence when you lose vision.

  • Losing vision isn’t the end of the life you enjoy.

As you age, it’s normal to notice changes in your vision. Senior vision problems affect aging eyes and significantly impact your quality of life.

Some common senior vision problems include losing the ability to see up close, having trouble distinguishing colors, or needing more time to adjust to changing light levels. You can correct these problems with glasses, contact lenses, or improved lighting. 

More severe eye diseases and conditions are increasingly common as you age. Regular eye exams ensure you spot problems early and get treatment. 

Optometrist provides recommendations to senior woman

How To Keep Your Eyes Healthy As You Age

Your eyes change as you age, and that is unavoidable. However, many lifestyle choices and diseases also significantly affect your eye health. Follow these tips to take good care of your eyes and help keep them healthy.

Get Regular Eye Exams

Regular eye exams help detect and treat eye problems before they become more serious. Eye exams often detect other health conditions as well, like diabetes and high blood pressure, which can affect your vision and your overall health.

Eat a Healthy Diet

Give your eyes the nutrients they need with a healthy diet. Eye-friendly nutrients reduce your risk of serious eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration and cataracts and help your eyes function their best.

Include these important vitamins and nutrients in your diet for good eye health.

Lutein & Zeaxanthin

Lutein and zeaxanthin reduce your risk of developing new cataracts. Dark green leafy vegetables are the primary dietary source, along with other colorful fruits and vegetables like broccoli, corn, peas, persimmons, and tangerines.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C lowers your risk of developing cataracts and when combined with other essential nutrients, it can slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration and visual acuity loss. Incorporate oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, papaya, green peppers, and tomatoes into your diet for your daily dose.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E protects cells in the eyes from unstable molecules called free radicals, which break down healthy tissue. Good food sources of vitamin E are vegetable oils (including safflower and corn oil), nuts, wheat germ, and sweet potatoes.

Essential Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for proper visual development and retinal function. Salmon, tuna, and other cold-water fish are the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids and can help reduce inflammation, enhance tear production, and support the eye’s oily outer layer. Fish oil capsules are a convenient daily source of this essential fatty acid.


Zinc helps bring vitamin A from the liver to the retina to produce melanin, a pigment that protects the eyes. Zinc deficiency also contributes to impaired vision, poor night vision, and cloudy cataracts. For natural dietary sources of zinc, consume red meat, oysters and other shellfish, and nuts and seeds.

Senior woman visits an optometrist for her annual eye exam

Wear Protective Eyewear

Ultraviolet (UV) light ages your eye, leading to corneal damage, cataracts, and macular degeneration.

Protect your eyes from the sun's harmful UV rays by wearing sunglasses that block 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays. Wear protective eyewear like safety glasses or goggles if you work with hazardous materials or participate in risky sports.

Don't Smoke

Smoking is as bad for your eyes as it is for the rest of your body. If you smoke, you are twice as likely to develop age-related macular degeneration compared with people who do not smoke, and you are two to three times more likely to develop cataracts. 

Exercise Regularly

Exercise staves off some eye conditions; if you already have an eye disease, exercise helps you manage it better. 

People with moderate physical exercise are 25 percent less likely than inactive people to develop glaucoma. If you already have glaucoma, regular exercise lowers your intraocular pressure and improves blood flow to your retina and optic nerve.  

Physical activity also helps keep diabetes under control and reduces complications like diabetic retinopathy, the leading cause of vision loss among working-age adults.

Manage Chronic Health Conditions

If you already have a chronic health condition like diabetes or high blood pressure, you probably know you are at greater risk of eye disease. Work with your healthcare provider to manage these conditions and reduce their impact on your eyes.

Take Breaks From Screen Time

People in the United States spend an average of seven hours and four minutes per day viewing screens like computers, phones, and televisions. Staring at a computer or phone screen for long periods causes eye strain, fatigue, and dry, irritated eyes. Your eyes also lose focus flexibility – the ability to adjust to distance vision quickly. 

Take regular breaks, and follow the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look away from the screen for 20 seconds and focus on an object 20 feet away.

Common Vision Problems for the Elderly

As you age, you are more likely to experience eye diseases like cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy. These conditions affect more than just your vision.

Eye disease and its accompanying vision loss also affect physical and mental health. Vision loss increases your fall risk; reduces your quality of life; and can significantly impact your mental health, like depression, loneliness, social isolation, and feelings of worry, anxiety, and fear. 

While these vision problems are common among seniors, you can take steps to prevent or manage them. Regular eye exams detect vision problems early when they are most treatable. 

Senior woman gets an eye exam


Cataracts are the most common vision problem among seniors. They occur when the clear lens in the eye becomes cloudy or opaque, leading to blurred vision.

You might associate cataracts with aging, but other factors like prolonged exposure to sunlight, smoking, and certain medications can also cause them. Cataracts significantly impact your quality of life, making it difficult to see clearly — especially at night.

Symptoms of cataracts include blurry vision, double vision, difficulty seeing at night, and sensitivity to light. Fortunately, surgery can treat cataracts by removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with an artificial lens, restoring clear vision.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

AMD is another common vision problem for seniors. The macula – the part of the retina responsible for central vision – deteriorates, leading to a loss of central vision.

Symptoms of AMD include blurred or distorted central vision, difficulty recognizing faces, and a dark or empty area in the center of the vision. Treatment for AMD varies depending on the type of AMD and can include medication, laser therapy, and photodynamic therapy.

AMD is often associated with aging, but genetics and lifestyle factors such as smoking and a poor diet also contribute.


Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that cause damage to the optic nerve and lead to vision loss. It is often associated with increased pressure in the eye, but it can also occur with normal eye pressure. Symptoms of glaucoma include a gradual loss of peripheral vision, tunnel vision, and eye pain or redness. Treatment for glaucoma uses eye drops to lower eye pressure and laser therapy or surgery.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is a vision problem that affects people with diabetes. It occurs when high blood sugar levels damage the retina's blood vessels, leading to vision loss. The symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include blurred vision, dark spots or floaters, and difficulty seeing at night. Treatment for diabetic retinopathy varies depending on the severity of the condition and can include medication, laser therapy, or surgery.

Mature senior receives an eye exam

How To Make Life Easier and Safer for Seniors With Low Vision

Vision loss is common as you age, but it can be challenging for seniors to accept and adapt to such a change. Other senses like hearing, smell, and taste also weaken with age, increasing feelings of isolation and loss. 

Vision loss is a gradual process for most people, so seniors (and their family members) may not be aware of how compromised their eyesight has become. Keep an eye out for these changes that may be a sign of vision loss: 

  • Squinting or tilting your head when trying to focus

  • Bumping into things or knocking objects over

  • Discontinuing everyday vision-based activities like reading or writing

  • Missing objects when reaching for them

  • Falling or walking hesitantly

  • An increase in auto accidents and risky driving maneuvers

Even though living with low vision is challenging, you can take steps to make daily life easier and safer. Here are some tips to help seniors with low vision.

Increase Lighting

Improving home lighting makes it easier for you to see. Install brighter light bulbs, such as energy-efficient LEDs in fixtures, and add task lighting for activities like reading, cooking, and grooming.

Use Contrasting Colors

High-contrast colors help you distinguish objects and navigate their surroundings. For example, dark-colored furniture against light-colored walls makes it easier to see the furniture and avoid bumping into it.

Label Items

Use a label maker with large, high-contrast print to label household items like medication bottles, food containers, and clothing. Making them easier to identify prevents harmful mistakes. 

Mature woman with great vision

Use Assistive Devices

With assistive devices, you can enjoy many of your usual activities. Magnifying glasses aid with reading small print, and talking watches and clocks can help keep track of time. Electronic devices such as tablets and smartphones provide access to communication with friends and family and media like books and magazines. Adjustable text sizes, text-to-speech, and voice-activated commands keep you connected and entertained.

Modify Your Environment

Home modifications ensure you navigate your surroundings more easily. Install handrails and grab bars in bathrooms and hallways, use non-slip mats, and remove clutter that could be a tripping hazard.

Get Regular Eye Exams

When living with low vision, get regular eye exams to monitor your vision and ensure you get the necessary treatment. Sometimes, proper medical care can prevent or slow your vision loss.

What To Do if You Go Blind

Going blind is a complex and emotional experience for the person with vision loss and their family. It might seem like you will no longer be able to enjoy your hobbies and independence, but people without vision learn to use skills and supportive devices and continue living a rich and fulfilling life.

See Your Eye Doctor

Your first stop should be your eye doctor. Many causes of severe vision loss are now treatable. 

Mature woman reviews information on a tablet

Accept Changes in Your Eyesight

You aren’t alone – most people who develop low vision or become legally blind are over 65. It’s hard to adapt to changes in your eyesight, and you might feel a stew of fear, frustration, isolation, and helplessness. Your well-intentioned friends and family members may even contribute to your negative feelings if they believe you aren’t able to care for yourself.

If you lose your vision, you will undoubtedly adjust how you do many things. However, with the proper training and encouragement, seniors with vision loss continue to enjoy full and independent lives. The three keys are:

  • Accept the reality of your situation.

  • Develop a positive "I can do this" attitude.

  • Adopt the use of alternative methods.

As you learn methods that employ your other senses – such as touch, hearing, and smell – you can continue to do almost everything you want or need to do.

Plan for Transportation

Like when you were a teenager, having your own wheels feels like your ticket to freedom. However, many people use buses, taxi cabs, ridesharing services, and airplanes to navigate their community and beyond. If you didn’t use transportation services when you had sight, you might feel overwhelmed by learning it now. Seek help from transit agencies or services for blind people to help master this new skill.

Seek Emotional Support

Going blind can be a traumatic experience. Seek out emotional support from family, friends, support groups, or counseling services to help you cope with the emotional impact of your vision loss.

Losing Vision Isn’t the End of the Life You Enjoy

Losing your vision is challenging, but you can continue leading a fulfilling life with support and resources. 

Take care of your eyes with regular medical care, a nourishing diet, and healthy lifestyle choices. Understand your medical condition and the treatments you have available. Most of all, seek support when you need it – you don’t have to navigate the changes of aging, or vision loss, alone.

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