GOTHENBURG, Sweden — As you age, your eyes change gradually too, even if you don’t notice it. By the time you glance, stare, squint, and read the fine print for seven decades, your eyesight isn’t what it used to be. According to a Swedish study however, most older adults still believe their vision is pretty good — but is it? Researchers say roughly six in ten people over 70 can improve their eyesight with new or improved glasses.
The University of Gothenburg finds many seniors are actually right; their vision is still strong. They also say there’s plenty of room for improvement. Many are also living with serious eye conditions they don’t know about.
“Visual impairment can creep up on you, making it difficult to notice that your eyes are getting worse,” says Lena Havstam Johansson from Sahlgrenska University Hospital in a media release.
Perception doesn’t match reality
The study looks at 1,200 participants who completed a self-reported questionnaire on eye diseases. The participants, all Gothenburg residents, provided information about their eyesight and how vision problems impact their everyday lives.
Their answers reveal that perceptions about our eyesight often does not match reality. In fact, the majority of study participants whose vision is deteriorating still rate their eyesight as good. For those who suspected their eyesight was failing, there was confusion about the root cause.
“Above all, it was reduced contrast sensitivity that made people think their sight was poor,” study co-author Madeleine Zetterberg explains. “Impaired visual acuity or visual field defects had less of an impact on how they perceived their own eyesight.”
About half of the participants (560) also took eye exams as part of the research. The test is somewhat similar to the one taken to receive a driver’s license. The Swedish team collected information on each person’s central vision (what is seen directly in front) and peripheral vision (what is seen out of the corner of your eye).
Undiscovered vision issues
The results reveal that both men and women tend to have glasses that are the wrong prescription. Of greater concern though, nearly a quarter of older adults were diagnosed with cataracts (clouding of the eyes). Researchers say 27 percent of women and 19 percent of men examined have cataracts.
Some participants were already aware of the condition, but many had no idea until the study, proving the importance of regular eye exams. Overall, men have slightly better eyesight than women. Women are known to be more prone to cataracts.
While 23.4 percent were found to have cataracts, other eye diseases detected include age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in 4.7 percent of the seniors, glaucoma (4.3%), and diabetic retinopathy (1.4%).
“Being 70 doesn’t have to mean your vision is poor. It’s easy to get it checked by an optician, who can offer the right glasses or refer you to an ophthalmologist if necessary,” Johansson adds.
The study is published in the scientific journal Acta Ophthalmologica.