Are “Old Eyes” Inevitable?

What are “old eyes”?

The technical term for “old eyes” is presbyopia. Most people know it as an almost sudden struggle to read resulting in squinting that then necessitates the use of reading glasses. Other symptoms include eyestrain, headaches and fatigue from up-close work. For most people, presbyopia strikes sometime after age 40.

What’s really happening when presbyopia occurs is that eyes are losing their flexibility due to a change in the lens’ proteins in addition to loss of elasticity in muscles surrounding the eyes. These age-related occurrences make focusing on close objects more difficult.

Can “old eyes” be reversed?

Up until rather recently, corrective lenses were the only solution once “old eyes” hit. However, researchers at UC Berkley and Tel-Aviv University have “found some evidence that eye exercises may be albe to help presbyopes improve their vision appreciably.” What’s interesting is that this study showed that exercising the brain, not the eyes, provided the improvement. They think this happened by the brain’s improvement to interpret blurry images rather than any change in the eye itself. More research needs done before knowing for sure if “brain exercises” might be able to provide improvement for presbyopia.

For now, unfortunately, presbyopia is not reversible in any form.

Can “old eyes” be prevented?

Also unfortunately, presbyopia cannot be completely prevented either. However, experts say that it can be postponed, and its severity lessened. Here’s how:

  1. Visit your optometrist regularly, and have any farsightedness corrected. Uncorrected farsightedness can cause presbyiopa to set in sooner that it would otherwise.
  2. Avoid up-close work for long-periods of time. Up-close work tires the eye muscles, and tired eye muscles make correcting presbyiopia more difficult.
  3. Protect your eyes from sunlight. This means staying out of direct sunlight, or, if you are in the sun, wearing UV sunglasses to protect your eyes.
  4. Eat a healthy diet. In addition to a well-balanced diet, there are also certain foods as well as vitamins that can help keep eyes healthier over your lifetime.
  5. Take special consideration when working with a computer, especially when working with it all day long. Those who work with a computer most of the day have increased problems caused by this up-close work.

Stay tuned for an upcoming article titled “Putting Your Eyes On A Diet” where we look at what elements of a healthy diet contribute to healthier eyes over your lifetime.

Related Reading

Check out these articles related to the topics discussed above to help you postpone the onset of “old eyes.”

12 Eye Care Tips for National Eye Care Month

How Does Computer Use Affect Children’s Vision?

Exercising Your Eyes

A Lesson from Anderson Cooper – Your Eyes CAN Get Sunburned

5 Reasons to Wear Sunglasses in the Winter

Exercising Your Eyes

With a new year now upon us, many people look to improving their overall health and wellness. The focus though, usually lies with exercise and weight loss. Few, if any, consider exercising for their eyes.

Does exercise impact eyesight?

In addition to the many other benefits to overall health and wellness, Aerobic Exercise Can Improve Your Vision too.

Harry A. Quigley, MD, professor and director of glaucoma services at Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University said that “Aerobic exercise is known to lower intraocular pressure (IOP), which we know protects retinal ganglion cells. And short-term studies show it may improve blood flow to the retina and optic nerve as well.”

So, we know that aerobic exercise improves a person’s health as a whole and helps prevent disease. We have specific exercises for arms, abs, legs, etc., but what about exercises specifically for your eyes?

Can you improve your vision with eye-specific exercises?

A quick search on the internet reveals a variety of self-help, eye exercise programs designed to eliminate or reduce the need for glasses and contacts. These programs remain highly controversial though, and most vision experts agree that scientific evidence simply does not support the claim that such programs really work.

All About Vision says these programs cannot work simply because of the basic anatomy of the eye. In fact, “A recent review of research published in peer-reviewed, scientific journals conducted by AllAboutVision.com failed to uncover any studies showing that eye exercises can alter the eye’s basic anatomy significantly…”

This means that because eye exercises will not change the shape of your eye, and because the shape of a person’s eye or parts of the eye are what cause vision problems like an astigmatism and near/far sightedness, eye exercises cannot eliminate a person’s need for corrective lenses.

With that being said, there are certain vision problems, such as “lazy eye,” that can be corrected through vision therapy. With these types of problems, eyes are “trained” to see better in different ways. In other words, the brain and the eyes can learn to work better together in a way that corrects these types of vision problems.

Keep in mind that the type of vision therapy that can correct problems like “lazy eye” take place in an office setting, such as that offered by WOW Vision Therapy, and is not a self-help approach that can be purchased on the internet. Therapy centers like WOW Vision Therapy stress that their office-based vision therapy is not eye exercises but is instead “an accelerated development of the visual system.”

The experts at WebMD agree that if you have nearsightedness, dyslexia or excessive eye blinking or squinting, eye exercises likely will not be effective. WebMD also says that eye exercises are usually not effective for paralysis of eye muscles and muscle spasms of the eyes.

Are eye exercises ever a worthwhile option?

WebMD says that for symptoms such as eyestrain, blurred vision, headaches, increased sensitivity to bright light, tired eyes or difficulty sustaining attention, eye exercises may be affective. In addition, amblyopia (lazy eye) is best treated in early childhood through therapies that force the lazy eye to function.

Keep in mind that the type of therapy needed for these eye problems should come through a trained physician and not via the internet. For this reason, the first step involves having a comprehensive eye exam.

WebMD further emphasizes that eye exercises can strengthen eye muscles, improve focusing, strengthen eye movements and stimulate the vision center of the brain, but these exercises are usually highly tailored to the individual based on the specific problem as well as the patient’s age. Therapeutic exercises by trained professionals can help with eye muscle control and can train your brain and your eyes to work better together, thus providing significant impact for certain eye conditions.

While the self-help, eye-exercise programs won’t likely hurt your eyes, All About Vision warns against having high expectations for their success. Look for credible sources, which can be a challenge online, and always consult with your physical first before beginning any exercise regime, whether for your body’s overall health and wellness or specifically for your eyes only.