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When you’re in your 20s or 30s, you likely don’t spend much time thinking about your future eyesight. You might take steps to protect your physical health, and you probably consider your future career and life plans. But you might only rarely pause to consider the affect your current actions have on your future ocular health.

If you’re between 20 and 30 years old, you’ve probably noticed that most older people have glasses. However, you’re not sure if this observation means you’ll need glasses, too. You might not know what to expect in terms of your eyesight as you age or what you can do to keep your eyes healthy in the meantime.

In the blog below, we’ll talk about eye-related changes 20- and 30-year-olds can expect over the course of their lives and what they can do to protect their future vision now.

Age-Related Changes Decade by Decade

Hopefully, you’ve made it to your 20s or 30s without going through major vision changes. In most cases, you likely haven’t experienced anything more severe than the occasional case of pink eye or a glasses or contacts prescription. If these scenarios describe your experience so far in life, here’s what you can expect as you grow older.

40s

Around age 40, most people begin to experience a condition called presbyopia. Presbyopia, or the hardening of your eyes’ lenses, makes it harder for you to focus on objects that are too close. Every adult experiences this lens hardening, so you don’t need to worry about it too much. In many cases, you can lessen its impact simply by holding objects (like a book) further away from your face.

Even if you’ve never worn glasses before, you’ll probably need a prescription once you turn 40. Some people only need reading glasses so they can focus on objects that they hold closer to their face. Other people might need multifocal lenses, which allow them to use one lens for reading and another lens for objects that are further away. In some cases, you can choose LASIK surgery to correct your presbyopia.

Once you start having trouble focusing on nearby objects, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor. Hopefully, you’ll have started the habit of visiting your eye doctor once per year, so this step shouldn’t prove too difficult. He or she can give you a lens prescription that will help you see better.

50s

Presbyopia often intensifies around age 50. Your lenses continue to harden as you age, so you might need to update your glasses prescription more frequently to keep up with the changes. If you only used reading glasses in your 40s, you might need to invest in more pairs of glasses at this point—you’ll probably need one set for reading and another for daily tasks.

60s

A few eye problems become more common once you’re over age 60. You and your eye doctor should be on the lookout for the following issues.

Glaucoma. If you have glaucoma, the blood pressure in your eye has increased, leading to sight loss. Those over 60 are six times more likely to develop glaucoma. Diabetes can also cause glaucoma. While glaucoma can’t be cured, it can be treated and managed when it’s detected early.

Cataracts. Age can cause your eyes’ lenses to become more opaque, which makes it harder for you to see. People over 40 are much more likely to develop cataracts than other age groups.

Macular degeneration. This condition is the leading cause of sight loss for individuals over 60. If you have macular regeneration, your retina begins to deteriorate, which eventually destroys your vision. This condition affects more Americans than glaucoma and cataracts combined, and it currently cannot be cured.

Many of these eye problems are initially asymptomatic, so you should visit your eye doctor once a year or as soon as you notice any vision-related problems.

Ways to Protect Your Vision Now

Now that you know how your eyes will change over the coming decades, you might feel worried about your sight. While you can’t control certain conditions that occur with age, like presbyopia, you can take certain steps in your 20s and 30s to keep your vision healthy throughout your life:

  • Visit your eye doctor at least once a year. He or she can catch and treat vision problems earlier rather than later, which helps your eyes stay healthy for as many years as possible.
  • Wear sunglasses. UV rays damage your eyes and may contribute to conditions like macular degeneration. Before you purchase a pair of sunglasses, read the label to make sure the glasses protect you from UV rays.
  • Avoid smoking. Smoking doubles your risk of developing macular degeneration in your later years. The earlier in life you quit, the better your chances of protecting your eyesight.
  • Eat a healthy diet and exercise frequently. Having a healthy body means having healthy eyes as well. Plus, exercise and healthy foods can keep your blood pressure low and help you avoid diabetes.

When you follow the steps above, you can protect your vision now and in the future. If you have any questions about your current eye health, talk to your optometrist. Make sure you work with your optician to find the right lenses and frames for your unique situation.