This article originally appeared in Be Well, a health
information newsletter published for members of the Greater Marlborough
Over 50 eyes - if you have not experienced them, it is just a matter of time.
"It appears that the human eye lens gets stiffer as we age. This becomes
noticeable in the early to mid 40s, when our eyes' focusing point reaches the
end of our outstretched arms," said ophthalmologist Susan Yeomans, MD, of Eye
Physicians of Marlborough and Worcester, who is also on Marlborough Hospital's
medical staff. "By age 50, virtually everyone becomes aware of this phenomenon,
and most begin to use reading glasses or bifocals."
Another common feature of aging eyes is that the tear film no longer produces
water, oil and mucin in the right proportion to create the protective tear film
on the surface of the eye, leading to the condition of dry eyes. "The eyes can
feel irritated or ‘sandy' and the irritation can actually make the eyes water,
as if trying to flush something out. These watery eyes are losing the protective
oils that help moisturize them. Tear products and lubricants can help. An
ophthalmologist can also prescribe special eye drops to increase the
moisture-creating cells' activity or place tiny surgical plugs to maintain the
tear layer and keep it from being blinked away so quickly," explained Dr.
Also between ages 50 and 60, a careful examination of the eye lens, which is
located just behind the pupil of the eye, usually shows the beginning signs of
an early cataract, decreasing the ability to see differences in colors. "This
means that the lens is no longer crystal clear and yellows with age," said Dr.
Yeomans. "This occurs even if the vision is still excellent, but surgery is not
considered unless the cataract interferes with the clarity of the patient's
Expect to see increased spots or specks, often called floaters. They are most
commonly seen against white walls or in bright sunlight. "Floaters may be
annoying but are a normal part of the aging eye and are usually harmless.
Floaters can take on any shape, such as a cobweb, hair, fruit fly or splotch and
can be very frightening," explained ophthalmologist Diane Karalekas, MD, also
with Eye Physicians of Marlborough and Worcester and on the medical staff at
Marlborough Hospital. "Usually, the floaters do not signify any significant
underlying problem. However, any new floaters should be evaluated by an eye care
professional, especially if they are accompanied by flashes of light, several
new floaters or an abrupt change in vision."
Glaucoma, a progressive disease in which the eye's pressure damages the
delicate optic nerve fibers at the back of the eye, is one of the leading causes
of blindness worldwide. Anyone who has a relative with glaucoma is at risk for
developing the disease, even if they are under age 50. Nearly all cases have no
pain, blurriness or other symptoms. "The incidence of glaucoma cases rises
steadily up to the age of 65 and then increases more rapidly. By age 80,up to
one out of seven people have some form of glaucoma," said Dr. Karalekas.
But all is not lost. Simple lifestyle changes, including good nutrition,
could help delay or prevent certain eye problems. Diet is an extremely important
part of daily lifestyle choices. Foods one eats and the dietary supplements
taken impact overall health as well as the health of eyes. Cardiovascular
disease, diabetes and eye conditions, including cataracts and macular
degeneration, all have been shown to be less prevalent in people who eat diets
rich in vitamins, minerals, healthy proteins, omega-3 fatty acids and lutein.
Besides adopting a healthy diet, one also can help protect their eyes by
avoiding intense ultraviolet light, quitting smoking and getting regular
checkups that may help detect chronic diseases contributing to eye problems.
"To maintain good eye health in the over 50 population I encourage patients
to have a thorough examination by an eye care professional, including full
dilation of the pupils," said Dr. Karalekas. "It pays to make this investment in
Dr.Yeomans and Dr. Karalekas have offices at 65 Boston
Post Road West, Suite 250, Marlborough. The office telephone number is