Vision can change a lot throughout a person's lifetime. You may have had good vision as a child and a younger adult, but problems start occurring as you grow older. But don’t worry, often there are things you can do to either slow the change in your vision, or help combat the symptoms of some eye conditions.
If you notice your eyesight is getting worse, it’s important to visit your local optician for an eye test. They’ll be able to identify if there are any underlying issues that might be causing your eyesight to worsen.
Reasons your eyesight might get worse as you age
A change in eyesight can be caused by a number of factors — from common eye conditions such as cataracts, to age, or even other underlying medical conditions such as diabetes (diabetic retinopathy). Common reasons your eyesight may worsen can include:
As we get older, most of us will naturally begin to develop an eye condition known as presbyopia. Presbyopia is the gradual loss of your eyes' ability to focus on objects up-close, which makes everyday tasks like reading or using your smartphone more difficult. Signs that your eyesight is getting worse due to presbyopia include holding objects further away to focus on them more easily, or experiencing blurry vision at a normal reading distance.
Presbyopia can begin to affect your vision around the age of 40, but there is help available to you to fit around your lifestyle. Often all you will need is a pair of prescription reading glasses, contact lenses or some varifocal lenses to help you see at various distances.
Cataracts are another common age-related eye condition that can lead to worsening eyesight. Over time, cloudy patches can develop in the clear lens inside your eye, stopping light from reaching the back of the eye, and causing blurred or misty vision.
Often, when cataracts are just beginning to form, the vision can be improved with a new glasses prescription. However, most cataracts will eventually need surgery to replace the clouded lens and help restore clear vision. Learn more about cataracts treatment here.
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that affect the optic nerve, usually as a result of increased pressure build-up in the eyes, and can lead to permanent vision loss if left untreated. Chronic glaucoma symptoms can develop over time, affecting up to two in every 100 people over 40, but become progressively more common as we age.
Find out more about the condition on our glaucoma hub.
4. Age-related macular degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the leading causes of sight loss for over-50s. The more common type of AMD (dry AMD) develops gradually over time as we age, so people may not notice the symptoms until later on. AMD causes blurring of our central vision, causing difficulty reading, using a computer, or even watching television. There are different types of macular degeneration, and each type involves its own treatment options. Usefully, age-related macular degeneration can often be detected by an optician using an OCT scan. Find out more about OCT here.
5. Digital eye strain and screen use
You may find that your eyes are particularly sore, or your vision is a little blurry after spending long periods of time looking at digital screens for work or studying. This is likely just a short-term symptom of digital eye strain, which should ease after some screen-free time.
As your eyes become accustomed to focusing on screens up-close, with little breaks, it can become more difficult to adjust and focus on objects in the distance. In fact, in 2020, 1 in 3 people in the UK noticed a deterioration in their eyesight due to increased screen time during lockdowns.1
Some people may be more likely to develop certain eye conditions, as many eye diseases like glaucoma and even short sight (myopia) can be hereditary. So it’s important to understand your family’s eye health history to know what signs to look out for.
7. Lifestyle factors
A bad diet, smoking or excessive alcohol consumption may all affect your vision. Having overall good health can prevent your eyesight from getting worse sooner than it might. A healthy, balanced diet is key, as vitamins C and E, as well as omega-3, can all contribute to healthy vision. Also, getting enough sleep, regularly exercising and avoiding smoking can equally help prolong healthy eyesight and overall well-being.
Why has my eyesight suddenly deteriorated?
If you have noticed that your eyesight has suddenly deteriorated without reason, it is important that you seek professional advice from your GP or optician. A sudden worsening in your eyesight is often the result of a serious underlying health condition that may need to be treated quickly.
Can I prevent my eyesight from getting worse?
There is no simple answer to preventing your eyesight from getting worse, as naturally your eyes will age and eyesight will worsen over time. However, a few ways to keep your eyes healthy include:
- Maintaining a healthy lifestyle – eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly and limiting alcohol and smoking can help keep your body healthy — including your eyes.
- Protecting your eyes from UV rays – this can help to reduce the risk of developing more serious eye conditions, such as cataracts and macular degeneration, when you’re older.
- Getting regular eye tests – early detection and treatment of some eye conditions, such as glaucoma and AMD, may help to prevent your vision from worsening.
What to do if your eyesight gets worse
Worsening eyesight can be down to a number of factors so it’s important to get your eyes tested regularly to make sure they’re healthy. We recommend booking an eye test every two years — although you should see your optician sooner if you notice a change in your vision. Most causes of blurred vision can be easily corrected with prescription glasses or contact lenses, although some may require more extensive treatment. Your optician can help you understand the best treatment options for your eyes.
1. Fight for Sight (2020). More than 1 in 3 people in the UK report deteriorating eyesight due to increasing screen time during pandemic. Available at: https://www.fightforsight.org.uk/news-and-articles/articles/news/screen-time/ [accessed Sept 2021]