We only have one set of eyes to get us through life, so it is important to take good care of them. Regular eye exams promote better eye health, and can help catch symptoms of many eye conditions throughout the stages of life. Below are the most common eye health problems for each age, their warning signs and how to treat them.
Birth to 24 Months
During the first few months of life, babies are exposed to an abundance of visual stimulation. As they age, hand-eye coordination improves, and they will begin to track movement with their eyes. For the first two months of life, infant’s eyes may appear to briefly wander or cross. This is usually normal, but if an eye appears to turn in or out for longer periods of time, then an evaluation is needed. Other common eye issues in the first two years of a child’s life include:
- Excessive tearing – this may indicate blocked tear ducts
- Red or encrusted eyelids – this could be a sign of an eye infection
- Constant eye turning – this may signal a problem with eye muscle control or a refractive error
- Extreme sensitivity to light – this may indicate an elevated pressure in the eye (congenital glaucoma)
- Appearance of a white pupil – this may indicate the presence of an eye cancer. Immediate attention is necessary.
3 to 5 Years
During this age, steps can be taken to ensure that a child is in a comfortable place to begin school. Ages 3-5 are when eye problems such as crossed eyes or lazy eyes are most prevalent. However, children this age generally will not voice complaints about their eyes. Parents should watch their children for these signs:
- Sitting close to the TV or holding a book too close
- Tilting their head
- Frequently rubbing their eyes
- Short attention span for the child’s age
- Turning of an eye in or out
- Sensitivity to light
- Difficulty with eye-hand-body coordination when playing ball or bike riding
- Avoiding coloring activities, puzzles and other detailed activities
If a child displays any of these signs, schedule an appointment with your ophthalmologist.
6 to 18 Years
As children progress in school, their eyes must adjust to meet increasing visual demands. The print size in their books becomes smaller, they spend more time reading and are now asked to spend hours focusing on screens each week. When a child’s eyes are not performing to their expectations, learning can become difficult. A child may:
- Avoid reading and other near visual work as much as possible
- Attempt to do the work anyway, but with a lowered level of comprehension or efficiency
- Experience discomfort, fatigue and a short attention span
In some cases, these issues can be solved with glasses or contact lenses. Your child should receive regular eye exams during their schooling years to screen for any changes in vision that may cause learning to become difficult.
19 to 40 Years
Most adults between the ages of 19 and 40 have healthy eyes and good vision. During this phase of life, the most common eye problems are caused by visual stress or injury. In a world that relies heavily on computers, eye strain is becoming a common problem in today’s workforce.
The following are signs of eye strain:
- Sore or tired eyes
- Itching or burning sensations in the eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Dry or watery eyes
- Difficulty focusing
Read this post to learn more about eye strain and how to prevent it.
Eye injuries can occur at work, at home, during recreational activities or can be caused by sun exposure. Be sure to always wear eye protection when in a situation that carries a risk of injury, especially when doing yard work, and wear UV blocking sunglasses when spending time outside.
41 to 60 Years
Many adults begin to notice issues seeing things up close around this time, especially when reading or looking at a computer screen. This normal change in the eye’s focusing ability, called presbyopia, will continue to progress over time. This can often be corrected by a pair of reading glasses or an adjustment to a current pair of prescription lenses.
During this time, it is important to schedule a comprehensive eye exam at least every two years to check for any developing eye and vision problems. Adults over 40 who have the following health issues or concerns may be particularly at risk for developing eye conditions:
- Chronic, systemic conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure
- A family history of glaucoma or macular degeneration
- A highly visually demanding job or work in an eye-hazardous occupation
- Health conditions related to high cholesterol, thyroid, anxiety or depression, and arthritis for which you take medications
While changes in vision are normal during this age, the following symptoms may be warning signs for serious conditions:
- Frequent vision fluctuations- While gradual changes are normal, frequent changes in how clearly you can see may be a sign of diabetes or hypertension (high blood pressure). These conditions can cause serious damage to the blood vessels in your eyes.
- Floaters and flashers- In most cases, these are shadowy images of particles floating in the fluid that fills the inside of the eye. Although they can be bothersome, spots and floaters typically don’t harm vision. They are a natural part of the eye’s aging process. However, if you suddenly begin seeing more floaters and flashers than normal, it may be sign of retina problems.
- Loss of peripheral vision- Losing peripheral or side vision is often a sign of glaucoma. Glaucoma occurs when the optic nerve is damaged, and can lead to serious vision issues.
- Distorted images- If straight lines appear distorted or wavy, it can be a sign of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). This disease affects the macula, which is the part of your eye that is responsible for central vision.
60 and Over
For those above the age of 60, age-related eye problems are the biggest concern. Many eye diseases show no early symptoms, and can only be caught by regular eye exams. At the exam, your doctor will screen for the following:
- Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
- Diabetic retinopathy
- Dry eye
- Retinal detachment