If you are over the age of 40, you have likely noticed that it is becoming increasing difficult for you to read the small print on medicine bottles or see the newspaper without moving it to arm's length. This can be quite disconcerting, especially for someone who has never had any vision issues. Thankfully, it is most likely just a normal age-related condition known as presbyopia. Here is what you need to know.
What Causes Presbyopia?
Unlike nearsightedness and farsightedness, which is the inability to see far away or close due to genetic issues and the eyeball shape, presbyopia occurs as a result of the gradual thickening and reduced flexibility of the lens on your eyes. It is not caused by a disease; it is just one of the joys of growing older.
Proteins in the lens change, making the lenses more rigid. There are also age-related changes in the muscles around the lenses, which results in less flexibility. This makes it harder for the eyes to focus when they are needed for things like reading. These changes also delay the eyes' ability to re-focus when looking far away and then switching to close vision.
How Is Presbyopia Treated?
There are currently two treatment options for presbyopia.
If you already wear glasses for nearsightedness, the next step is bifocals. These are glasses with essentially two lenses. The top lens is looked through to see things far away, and the bottom lens under the line is the stronger lens for seeing close. Another option is progressive addition lenses (PALs). These are similar to bifocals, but there isn't a clear line of demarcation between the lenses; it is a more gradual transition.
For aging adults who have never had glasses or contact lenses for corrective purposes, they are prescribed reading glasses in the strength they need currently need. These are eyeglasses that are only worn for close work as needed. Those who routinely wear contact lenses and don't want to wear glasses full-time are also usually prescribed reading glasses. Multifocal contact lenses are also available, but many people aren't fond of this option as they can cause a loss of depth perception. Keep in mind that as you age, the problem worsens, so your prescription will change over time, requiring new glasses every few years, so be sure to continue to see your optometrist for your annual or bi-annual eye exam.
Laser surgery can be performed on some patients to improve and correct presbyopia, however as this is an age-related issue, the problem is likely to eventually recur. Research is currently being done on other surgical procedures that may become available in the future.