Common Eye Problems As We Age

Our eyes are precious. We connect with people by looking into their eyes: we see them, how they are and how they are with us. Through our eyes, we take in life.

As we age, some common eye problems become more common, and in the beginning, these may cause no symptoms at all, which is why we need regular eye health checks with a trained professional as we grow older.

These conditions include:

  • Cataracts
  • Glaucoma
  • Macular degeneration


When you cook an egg, the egg white changes from clear and soft, to hard and then white, as the proteins denature. Essentially, the same thing happens in the lens of the eye – and the cloudy lens is called a cataract.

This process, that we used to call ageing, is really oxidative damage, so anything that reduces oxidative stress may also help our eyes.

There are some things that can cause oxidative stress:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking
  • eating processed foods
  • taking on stress (especially other peoples’!)


And some things that reduce it:

  • eating well (fresh whole food, lean meat, oily fish, green leafy veggies, nuts, and seeds)
  • drinking water
  • getting good quality sleep (which means early to bed!)
  • looking at ways of reducing stress
  • making the most of life, in each and every moment
  • focusing on what is great about the present, and letting go of the past, which allows us to look forward to the future.


The eye is a ball, filled with fluid under pressure. As we age, the drain holes inside the eye start to narrow and the pressure of the fluid builds up (like when the sink starts to block). This high pressure can, over time, damage the nerve to the eye, leading to loss of peripheral vision and if left untreated, can ultimately cause blindness. This causes no symptoms at all, until permanent damage is done, so please, have your eyes checked regularly!

Macular Degeneration

The macula is the central area of the retina, inside the back of the eye, with which we see colours, faces and fine detail. The cells of the macula are some of the most metabolically active cells in the body, so over time, they can wear out.

This wear and tear can lead to dry macular degeneration, which is the more common, but currently untreatable condition. Less commonly, blood vessels can grow into the macula, and can leak or bleed, causing wet macular degeneration. This can be treated, but the treatment consists of regular injections into the eye, so it is a treatment you would rather not need!

Prevention is directed at dealing with the underlying inflammation and oxidative damage. Supplements have been shown to be of benefit if taken when usen – the yellow spots which are the early signs of macular degeneration – are present, but not if you have no sign of it at all.

If you are really interested in preventing eye disease, the best thing to do is to care for the whole of you, as your eyes are part of you! The diet that is good for the eyes, is also the best diet for the whole of us: Lean meat, oily fish, green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and a little fruit (not too much, as it’s full of sugar).

By Dr Anne Malatt, Ophthalmologist Eye Surgeon has been practising since 1992

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