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How to reduce the likelihood of developing age-related eye diseases

March 1, 2024

As we age, we become susceptible to developing various age-related eye diseases such as macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma, among others. These conditions can significantly impact vision and eye health, which can negatively impact your quality of life. Understanding these diseases, their risk factors, and ways to mitigate these risks is crucial for maintaining eye health well into older age. There are plenty of strategies you can apply, starting today, to prevent the most common age-related eye diseases, including adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle and getting regular eye exams.

The Most Common Age-related Eye Diseases

Age-related eye conditions encompass a wide range of disorders and diseases that can affect various parts of the eye and the visual system. These conditions can range from common and easily treatable issues, such as dry eye syndrome and floaters to more serious, chronic diseases like glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy. Unfortunately, more chronic conditions can lead to significant vision impairment or blindness if left unaddressed.

Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affects the macula, the part of the retina responsible for sharp, central vision. AMD can lead to the loss of central vision, making it difficult to see fine details, read, or recognize faces. AMD is most common in older patients, but can be seen as early as age 55. Unfortunately, AMD is a leading cause of blindness in the U.S, so it’s important to catch it early. If you have family members with AMD or you smoke, you are more likely to develop the condition.

There are two types of AMD, dry and wet. Dry is the most common and only a small amount of cases progress to wet AMD. Wet AMD, is very serious and is responsible for 90% of all cases of blindness due to AMD. While there is no cure for AMD, there are treatments that have been shown to slow the progression of the disease.


Cataracts involve the clouding of the eye’s lens, leading to decreased vision. It’s a very common condition that typically progresses slowly and can affect one or both eyes. Symptoms include blurred vision, difficulty with vision at night, and sensitivity to light and glare. SInce they progress slowly, an eye doctor is more likely to notice cataracts before a patient, making regular eye exams a necessity. Most people will start developing cataracts after age 50, but you can work to prevent their development by addressing certain lifestyle risk factors such as heavy alcohol use and smoking.

The good news is that cataracts are fully treatable at every stage with cataract surgery and advancements in surgery techniques have made cataract surgery more successful than ever before. Laser cataract surgery provides precise and long-lasting results, and lenses replacements give patients top-quality vision.


Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve, potentially leading to irreversible vision loss and blindness. The most common form is associated with an increase in the pressure inside the eye. Often, there are no early symptoms, which makes it especially dangerous as the only symptom is vision loss. There is only one rare type of glaucoma that produces symptoms, making regular eye exams very important for catching the disease before it causes irreversible damage.

The glaucoma risk factors are different from the previous two eye diseases and include, diabetes and diabetic eye conditions, high levels of myopia, trauma to the eye, steroid use, and individuals with a history of glaucoma. Treatment for glaucoma ranges from eye drops to laser therapy and oral medications.

Risk Factors for Developing Age-related Eye Diseases

The risk of developing most of these conditions can be influenced by genetics, lifestyle, and environmental factors. Age is the most significant risk factor, but others include:

  • Family history of eye diseases
  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Prolonged exposure to UV rays
  • Heavy alcohol use

Reducing Risks Through Diet and Lifestyle

While aging is unavoidable, there are steps you can take to ensure that you enjoy a long, healthy life rather than one defined by age-related diseases. Perhaps the most important part of a healthy lifestyle is consuming a healthy diet. A diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals can help protect against age-related eye diseases, and many other conditions for that matter. Key nutrients to include in your diet for eye health are the following:

  • Vitamin C and E: These antioxidants that can reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.
  • Zinc: Supports the health of the retina and may protect against macular degeneration.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Found in fish, these can help prevent AMD and dry eye syndrome.
  • Lutein and Zeaxanthin: Carotenoids that protect against cataract and AMD. They’re found in leafy greens, eggs, and other vegetables.

Aside from consuming a varied diet rich in vitamins and minerals, regular exercise, avoiding smoking, and protecting the eyes from UV rays with sunglasses can also reduce the likelihood of developing these diseases.

One of the most important steps you can take to protect your eye health is to get regular eye exams. Comprehensive eye exams become increasingly important as you age. These check-ups can catch diseases in their early stages, even before symptoms occur. For adults over the age of 60, it’s recommended to have a comprehensive eye examination every one to two years. During an exam, an eye care professional will check for signs of age-related diseases, assess how your eyes work together, and evaluate your eyes as an indicator of your overall health.

Understanding age-related eye diseases and taking proactive steps to mitigate risks can significantly contribute to maintaining eye health and vision quality. A balanced diet, healthy lifestyle choices, and regular eye exams are key strategies to prevent eye diseases and enjoy a higher quality of life.

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