Monday, March 24, 2008
Aging eyes
by Val Willingham
Medical Producer

I have a passion for reading: books, magazines, even catalogs, you name it. And I never had a tough time following the fine print, until I got into my 40s. I just couldn't see up close. Although I had been wearing glasses since I was in sixth grade, all of a sudden, the words were out of focus. When I finally went to the eye doctor, he prescribed (here comes the dreaded word, most middle-age people hate to hear): Bifocals!

As we age, so do our eyes. It's just inevitable. Most people, as they get into their late 30s and early 40s, begin to have difficulty reading up close. Many people are forced to wear bifocals or reading glasses. They develop presbyopia, a condition in which the eyes don't have the ability to focus on near objects as we get older. The first symptoms are usually difficulty reading fine print, particularly in low light conditions, eyestrain when reading for long periods and blurred vision. Although in some cases it can be corrected with surgery, many people choose to go the glasses route.

As we age, we may also develop a condition known as glaucoma. It can start to develop in our 30s. Elevated pressure within the eye damages the optic nerve and can lead to blindness. Even people with normal blood pressure are at risk. "It's one of the most important things to look for, because 3 million Americans have glaucoma and half don't even know it," says Dr. Roy Rubinfeld of Washington Eye Physicians in Chevy Chase, Maryland. So make sure your ophthalmologist tests you for glaucoma.

In our 40s, we also can begin to form cataracts. That's right, in our 40s. Eye doctors say to avoid developing cataracts, protect your eyes and wear sunglasses to shield out ultraviolet light. Too much sunlight can damage the eyes, causing cataracts to grow.

And watch what you eat. Evidence shows that a diet rich in antioxidants, such as vitamin E and zinc, may prevent the onset of macular degeneration, a problem we begin to see in our 50s. Rubinfeld notes that as we age, the retina, which is in the back of the eye, ages too. "With age, it can deteriorate, and macular degeneration is one of the most common reasons for people, as they get older, to start to lose vision," Rubinfeld said.

Rubinfeld has performed more than 15,000 laser eye surgeries since the early 1990s. As laser surgery increases in popularity and the procedures become more perfected, he said, many people who didn't qualify for vision correction even a few years ago can now have it done. Rubinfeld finds people who thought they'd never be able to see again without glasses are waking up from laser surgery with a new outlook on life. Most patients, he sees, want to keep their vision in tip-top shape, much as they want to keep their bodies with regular workouts at the gym. Rubinfeld notes the aging eye should be a thing of the past and with yearly eye exams, and surgery options, patients' eyes should be as young as they feel.

Have you had eye surgery to correct your vision? Tell us about it.

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I am 53 and I had Intralase done on March 14, 2008. My eyes are healthy with no signs of disease. The preop eye exam was probably the best I've ever had. The surgery took 5 minutes, tops.

The next morning, my distance vision was 20/15 and closeup was 20/20. My eyes looked really bad and I will say the first 8 hours or so was very painful. Worse than major abdominal surgery. I don't understand why they didn't give me something for pain.

I do have the halos when I drive at night. It's like driving with really dirty glasses on. The other challenge for me has been relearning to focus my eyes. My glasses had been doing that for me since I was 8. My vision overall is very good. I can see better than I did with glasses. Fewer blindspots. I was very photophobic before surgery and that seems to have improved.

I'm glad I had the surgery. For the first time in my life, I have some cool shades!
I had Lasik in my early 40ties. I'm almost 55. I was extremely near-sighted and my vision is still 20/25 in one eye and 20/30 in my other. However, I had astigmatism which has come back in both eyes. For me, it was worth it because my vision was so bad and I couldn't tolerate contacts after my 30ties. Now, I only wear prescription reading glasses. The negative was it really aggravated my dry eyes and I think it makes my night vision worse. Also, your vision isn't as crisp as eyeglasses made it. So, there are trade-offs.
LASIK was the worst decision of my life. Since I had LASIK I have spent much of my spare time researching LASIK complications. The medical literature and FDA clinical trials report that chronic dry eyes and night vision impairment occur frequently after LASIK. The rate of these complications is actually very high. Moreover, the LASIK flap only heals to 2% of the cornea's original tensile strength, and the biomechanical strength of the cornea is permanently reduced by about 50% after LASIK. LASIK patients face problems with glaucoma screening and future cataract surgery. You can read more about LASIK risks and long-term complications on my website at
Lasik depression after lasik.
Had lasik about 2 years ago and I suffer every day because of lasik.
Glasses gave me 20/15 crisp clean vision far and near under any
light condition, now I have double vision, severe glare and light sensitivity,severe starbursts,contrast loss,dry eyes
and bad night vision.Having lasik done was the biggest mistake of my life.
I am a 52 year old female and went into these procedures with healthy eyes. My goal was to have the best of both worlds, distance and reading however, i am not sure that can truly happen and may end up choosing distance. Had lasik 3 times and PRK last June. The doctor is still trying to stabilize my vision with Steroid drops. It seems when I stop the drops my vision reverses to what it previously was but I am still hopeful. My first lasik was 6 years ago so I have still had the benefit of no glasses for that amount of time - If I could get my vision to stabilize, I would be happy - might need a 5th go at this (depending on my eyes) but that is yet to be determined. No real regrets.
When I was in my early teens I began wearing glasses to correct nearsightedness. Being a vain teenager I really hated the idea of wearing glasses. The Dr. at that time persuaded me to use them when I really needed them, to see the board at school and eventually to drive. He said if I did not wear them all the time eventually my eyes would get better as I got into my thirties and that I likely would not need reading glasses as I got into middle age. Well he was right. My vision did get better and by the time I got into my late thirties I did not need glasses. I'll be 53 this year and I've never developed the need for reading glasses either.
My Aunt was told that she had fast growing cataracts on one eye and was sent immediately for surgery to remove them. Her other eye had the beginning of cataracts. They decided within a month of the first surgery to remove them. Her vision now is very poor. They did some laser treatments, but her better than perfect vision has been substantially reduced. She had not even noticed any problems with her vision before the surgeries and now she is having major problems with her vision. We've been told by some that the cataracts may have been removed too soon.
We have a number of customers who, following corrctive laser eye surgery, have been recommended ready to wear reading glasses. Obviously their distance vision has been suitably corrected but reading and close work is another matter. It would seem however that if directed by your surgeon, in certain cicumstances simple magnification would suffice.
I had the new intralase LASIK in 2006. Since then, my life has changed but almost completely for the worst. I have spent over $15,000 in seeing eye MD's and purchasing prescription and OTC eye drops since my LASIK. The statistics are skewed.

Many people who have less than good outcomes will claim that they would do it again and/or would recommend it to others. Fortunately or not, I can't be like them. Instead, I am well aware that my LASIK outcome was poor.

There are various degrees of dry eyes (mild, moderate, and severe). If you have moderate or severe dry eyes, there are very poor solutions. Dry eyes are common post-LASIK and worsen with age. If I had known just that alone, it would have been enough to keep me away from LASIK.
I had Lasik in 2006 to correct a minor case of myopia. It corrected my vision to 20/20, but there were side effects. I developed dry eyes, which have improved quite a bit, but it's taken me over 18 months to get to this point; the dry eye condition is now a lingering nuisance. I developed floaters in my field of vision. They're very transparent, but numerous; they're annoying. I had major halos and light sensitivity in the first few months, but it's been reduced to a very minor condition. I can drive at night. Still, these annoyances (slight dry eyes, floaters, slight light sensitivity) bother me. Honestly, I wish I had not had it done. If you're very picky about your eyesight, and you're not a risk-taker, then maybe Lasik isn't for you.
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