Presbyopia, which literally means “aging eye,” is an age-related eye condition that makes it more difficult to see things that are near the face.
When you are young, the lens in your eye is soft and flexible. The lens of the eye changes its shape easily, allowing you to focus on objects both close and far away.
After the age of 40, the lens becomes more rigid. Because the lens can’t change shape as easily as it once did, it is more difficult to read at close range. This normal condition is called presbyopia.
Unlike other refractive errors such as nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia) and astigmatism, presbyopia is caused by an age-related process that leads to the eye’s lens losing its flexibility.
It is generally believed that as we age, changes in the lens’s proteins make the lens more rigid and less flexible over time. Also, muscles surrounding the lens may lose their elasticity. As the lens becomes less flexible and able to change shape as easily as it used to, the eye has a harder time focusing on close objects. This is why people over age 40 often find themselves holding reading material farther away to be able to see it clearly.
Since nearly everyone develops presbyopia, if a person also has myopia, hyperopia or astigmatism, the conditions will combine, oftentimes impairing your vision. People with myopia may have fewer problems with presbyopia.
Do you have and signs of presbyopia?
Some of the signs and symptoms of presbyopia include eyestrain, headaches or feeling tired from doing up-close work. One of the most obvious signs of presbyopia is the need to hold reading materials at arm’s length in order to focus properly.
The symptoms of hyperopia (farsightedness) and presbyopia are similar, however, they are caused by different things. Hyperopia is a refractive error that occurs when the eye is shorter than normal or has a cornea (clear front window of the eye) that is too flat. As a result, light rays focus beyond the retina instead of on it. Generally, this allows you to see distant objects clearly but near objects will appear blurred. While hyperopia is usually present from birth, presbyopia develops later — usually around age 40.
An Ophthalmologist can diagnose presbyopia as part of a comprehensive eye examination. In addition to checking for other eye problems, the degree of your presbyopia can be determined using a standard vision test.
There is no best method for correcting presbyopia. The most appropriate correction for you depends on your eyes and your lifestyle.
You should discuss your lifestyle with your ophthalmologist to decide which correction may be most effective for you.
Reading glasses are a very common and easy way to correct presbyopia symptoms, and are typically worn just during close work such as reading, sewing, etc. These “readers” are easily purchased at drug stores and other retail stores. You can also choose higher-quality versions prescribed by your eye doctor. If you decide to pick out a pair of reading glasses from the store, it is important that you select the weakest pair that will allow you to read newspaper-size print without difficulty.
If you wear contact lenses, your ophthalmologist can prescribe reading glasses that can be worn with your regular contacts to help you adjust to detailed, close-up work.
Eyeglasses with bifocal or progressive lenses are another common method of correcting presbyopia. Bifocal lenses have two different points of focus. The upper part of the eyeglass lens is set for distance vision, while the lower portion of the lens has a prescription set for seeing close work. Progressive lenses are similar to bifocal lenses, but they offer a more gradual visual transition between the two prescriptions, with no visible line between them.
Multifocal contact lenses are another option for correcting presbyopic vision. Just as bifocal lenses have two levels of corrective power, multifocal contact lenses create multiple levels of corrective power.
Another way to correct presbyopia with contact lenses is monovision, in which one eye has a contact set for distance, and the other has a contact set for near vision. The brain learns to adapt to using one eye or the other for different tasks.
Because the eye’s lens continually changes with age, you will need to have your prescription increased over time as well. Your eye doctor can prescribe a stronger prescription as needed to help you with up-close vision.
If corrective glasses or lenses do not fully treat your presbyopia, there are surgical options available. If you have any questions about presbyopia or preventing eye conditions in general, please feel free to contact Tri-State Ophthalmology by calling (606) 324-2451.
2841 Lexington Ave., Ashland, KY
Carter H. Gussler, MD . John C. Gross, MD