This story is part of a series on the current progression in Regenerative Medicine. This piece is part of a series dedicated to the eye and improvements in restoring vision. 


In 1999, I defined regenerative medicine as the collection of interventions that restore tissues and organs damaged by disease, injured by trauma, or worn by time to normal function. I include a full spectrum of chemical, gene, and protein-based medicines, cell-based therapies, and biomechanical interventions that achieve that goal.


As we age, our vision changes, making us more susceptible to different medical conditions. Some of the most common changes include difficulty seeing things up close, developing cataracts, and struggling to differentiate between colors. Even though these changes can be frustrating, they are crucial to maintaining good eye health and preventing age-related eye problems.


Common Conditions of Aging Eyes


Our eyes undergo natural physiological changes that can lead to various eye-related problems as we grow old. The lenses in our eyes become less flexible, making it harder to focus on objects. Also, the number of light-sensitive cells in our retina decreases over time, causing a decline in visual acuity. These age-related changes can give rise to various eye issues such as presbyopia, glaucoma, cataracts, and dry eyes.


Presbyopia is a gradual loss of the ability to see objects up close, typically affecting people in their 40s and beyond. It occurs due to a hardening of the lens in the eye and a decrease in its elasticity. As a result, it becomes more challenging to focus on nearby objects, such as reading material or computer screens.


Cataracts are another common age-related problem that affects many people. They occur when the proteins in the eye’s lens break down and clump together, causing cloudiness and decreased vision. Cataracts can develop slowly and may not cause significant vision problems at first. However, as they progress, they can cause blurred vision, difficulty seeing in low-light conditions, and even blindness.


Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve and can lead to vision loss or blindness. It typically occurs due to increased pressure within the eye, which can damage the optic nerve over time. Glaucoma can develop slowly and may not cause noticeable symptoms until significant vision loss occurs.


Finally, dry eyes occur when the eyes do not produce enough tears or when the tears evaporate too quickly, leading to discomfort and vision problems. It is a common condition that can cause eye itching, burning, and redness. 


Current Clinical Trials for Aging Eyes


A recent clinical trial has shown promising results in reducing keratoconus progression through corneal collagen crosslinking. Keratoconus is a condition that causes the cornea to become thin and bulge outward, leading to distorted vision and increased sensitivity to light. The trial’s results have opened up new possibilities for treating this condition and improving the lives of those affected.


In addition, gene therapy has shown potential in slowing the progression of retinitis pigmentosa. This degenerative eye disease affects approximately one in 4,000 people. Retinitis pigmentosa causes damage to the retina, leading to vision loss over time. While there is no cure for this disease, gene therapy offers hope for slowing its progression. This new therapy involves replacing or repairing faulty genes in the retina, which has shown promising results in animal studies.


Other Important Things to Know About Aging and the Eye


As you advance in age, it is critical to be mindful of your eye health to preserve your vision. Along with scheduling regular eye exams, you can implement several other strategies to keep your eyes healthy.


Firstly, wearing sunglasses that offer adequate UV protection helps shield your eyes from harmful rays that could lead to the development of cataracts and other eye conditions. Secondly, quitting smoking is crucial as it has been linked to higher risks of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, and other eye problems. Additionally, maintaining a healthy weight, consuming a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and taking supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins C and E have been shown to help prevent specific eye problems.


Staying hydrated is essential for maintaining healthy eyes and preventing dryness and irritation. Finally, using brighter lights in your home and keeping your living space clutter-free can help prevent accidents and reduce the likelihood of falls, which can be especially dangerous for older adults.


Although age-related eye problems are common, there are several measures you can take to minimize the risk of developing them. By leading a healthy lifestyle and scheduling regular eye exams, you can maintain good eyesight for many years. With ongoing research, new treatments and therapies may become available, providing even more options for protecting aging eyes.

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