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Color Vision Problems May Get More Common in Elderly Age

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Most of us anticipate our eyesight getting worse as we get older: blurred vision, the need for more light to see, the list goes on and on. But a new study shows that the risk of abnormal color vision could also go up as people reach elderly age.

The study, published in the journal Optometry and Vision Science, shows that the rate of abnormal color vision increases, starting at around age 70.

Researchers from The Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute administered two color vision tests to 865 adults ages 58 to 102, none of whom had “color-blindness.” One of tests was easier than the other; the easier one was “designed to only detect defects sufficiently severe to affect performance in daily life.”

Of the people in the study, 40 percent had abnormal results on the tests, and 20 percent of people failed both of the tests altogether. However, the failure rate was significantly higher among people over age 70.

About 45 percent of people in their mid-70s experienced abnormalities in color vision, researchers found. The rate was even higher for people age 85 and older (up to 50 percent) and people in their mid-90s (nearly 66 percent).

Researchers also noted that nearly 20 percent of the older people in the study failed the easier test, suggesting that this abnormal color vision could affect their ability to engage in tasks that require accurate color vision.
However, the type of color vision abnormalities experienced most commonly by older people seems to be different from that of people who have inherited color-blindness. Most of the age-related color vision issues involved confusing lighter blue shades with lighter purple shades, and confusing yellow with green or yellow-green. Meanwhile, people with inherited color blindness are more likely to experience color vision abnormalities with red and green.

While the study did not look at causes of the abnormal color vision, the researchers noted some possible reasons could include yellowing of the eye lens and smaller pupil size (which would then lead to less light coming in to the eye), as well as increased rates of age-related eye diseases, such as glaucoma.

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