Why Does Our Vision Get Worse As We Age?

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Why Does Our Vision Get Worse As We Age?
An optometrist talks about declining eyesight, and how to preserve your vision as you get older.

Our aging eyes can start to see some problems. The gift of vision is one that researchers say wanes over time. Why? 

Dr. Robert Layman is one of the nation’s leading optometrists, with over four decades of experience in eye care

"The parts that make up your vision system, our lifetime cells, they’re brain tissue, and they never get a replacement part. So what you're seeing with at 80 is what you started with at one," said Layman.  

80% of the information we take in comes through the eye. Light travels through different structures, like the cornea at the front, which helps you focus light to see clearly. Or the iris that gives you your eye color and the pupil that lets light into the retina. 

Once light is allowed through that lens, it travels through the retina to the back of the eye. 

Special cells turn the light into electric signals that go through the optic nerve, to the brain. 

Over the years those signals pick up mileage and, like an old car, begin to slow down. 

"If you ever seen car headlights that have been outside, and they're not transparent anymore, they get kind of frosted, that's what happens to the cells inside your eye over eight decades to nine decades."

Dr. Layman is describing cataracts. The age-related eye condition affects over 24 million people, according to the National Eye Institute.

Another ailment is presbyopia, which comes from two Greek words that mean "old man" and "eye." 

It’s when our eye’s lens loses its natural flexibility over time and makes nearby objects tougher to see. 

"We're born with this really elastic lens inside the eye and it can adjust from 25 feet to one inch and then gradually it loses the one inch to become six inches; and then gradually 12 inches and the closest point of focus you have is going to gradually go away from you. And that's perfectly normal," said Layman. 

These conditions are often solved with an assist from glasses, contact lenses or surgery. But are there other ways to fend off father time? 

Dr. Layman says we hold the keys to slowing the eye-aging process. 

"You have a role to play. People that have diets of lots of colorful fruits and vegetables every day, they're gonna get nutrients that help transport good stuff into the eye cells and bad stuff out of the eye cells back to the kidney and liver to get recycled," said Layman. 

The eye serves as a small but mighty part of the human engine. 

And with maintenance, can help you see more clearly as the miles pick up.