Why Aging Causes Eye Problems and Diseases in the Elderly

Glaucoma and cataracts are common eye conditions affecting seniors

Eye problems and disorders are common in the elderly population. Laser surgeries and other treatments exist to address some of these aging-related conditions. The key is to detect them early. Regular eye exams will help detect vision problems before they become serious. Here is a list of common age-related eye problems that can affect people at various stages in life but often affect the elderly.

An older man looking out the window

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Your eye has a lens that helps it to focus. The lens is made of protein. When protein molecules clump, a cloudy spot (called a cataract) forms. This is common in older people. Because some cataracts grow slowly, your healthcare provider may simply monitor a cataract until it interferes with your vision. Cataract surgery is a very common procedure to remove the cataract from your eye. Talk to your healthcare provider about alternatives if you're not ready to have surgery.

Dry Eye

Your eye sockets have lacrimal glands that produce tears, and they drain into your tear ducts in your lower eyelids. If your lacrimal glands stop working well, your eyes will become dry and uncomfortable. Eye drops can help, but have your eyes checked. There may be a simple procedure to partially plug your tear ducts (to keep tears from draining too fast).


The eye is filled with fluid. If too much pressure develops in the eye, it is called glaucoma. Over time, this build-up of pressure can damage the optic nerve and cause blindness.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) 

The macula is a part of the retina that processes central vision. Sometimes with aging, the macula deteriorates. This causes a problem called age-related macular degeneration that creates problems with driving, reading and many common tasks. Treatment can include laser surgery on the macula.

Diabetic Retinopathy 

Because of problems with diabetes, the tiny blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrients to the retina become poorly effective, which leads to a set of vision problems collectively called diabetic retinopathy. Treatment options include laser surgery and a surgical process known as a vitrectomy. All diabetics should have annual eye exams.

Retinal Detachment 

The layers of the retina can detach from the underlying support tissue. If untreated, retinal detachment can cause loss of vision or blindness. Symptoms include an increase in the type and number of "floaters" in your eyes, seeing bright flashes, feeling as if a curtain has been pulled over the field of vision, or seeing straight lines that appear curvy. Surgery and laser treatment can often reattach the layers of the retina.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Cleveland Clinic. Common aged-related eye problems.

  2. NIH, National Eye Institute. Facts about glaucoma.

  3. Gupta V, Arevalo JF. Surgical management of diabetic retinopathyMiddle East Afr J Ophthalmol. 2013;20(4):283–292. doi:10.4103/0974-9233.120003

  4. Feltgen N, Walter P. Rhegmatogenous retinal detachment—an ophthalmologic emergencyDtsch Arztebl Int. 2014;111(1-2):12–22. doi:10.3238/arztebl.2014.0012

By Mark Stibich, PhD
Mark Stibich, PhD, FIDSA, is a behavior change expert with experience helping individuals make lasting lifestyle improvements.