What is Presbyopia?

Presbyopia is the normal loss of near-focusing ability that occurs with age. It is a common eye condition and part of the ageing process. Everyone gets presbyopia as they get older; it is as familiar as grey hair. 

The word presbyopia itself simply means ‘old eyes.’ (from the Greek roots presbys for ‘elderly’ and opia for ‘eyes’).

Typically, presbyopia begins around the age of 40 and gradually progresses until around age 65, when it plateaus. Presbyopia is not a disease. It can be corrected with glasses, contacts or vision surgery.


What are the causes of presbyopia?

Your ability to create images relies on the lenses, little M&M-shaped structures that sit just inside your eye, behind the transparent dome called the cornea. Lenses are clear and are held in place by ciliary muscles. When light enters the eye, the lenses will bend and focus it directly on the retinas, which is how clear images are produced.

With the help of the ciliary muscles, the lenses constrict to see things close up and relax to see things far away. The lenses’ ability to shift between focusing on near-objects and far-objects is called ‘accomodation.’

All of this happens unconsciously. For example, if you are watching a TV at the end of the room, the lenses in your eyes will focus in the distance, because the light is relatively far away. If you pick up your phone in the middle of your show to read a message, the lenses in your eyes will constrict to accommodate the words on the phone. 

As we age, the lenses lose their elasticity and begin to harden. As they lose their flexibility, they can no longer change shape to focus on close-up things, which appear blurry.


What are the symptoms of presbyopia?

Presbyopia develops gradually, and it usually becomes noticeable in your early to mid-40s. As you become presbyopic, you’ll begin to hold your smartphone and other reading material farther from your eyes to see them more clearly. By the time you need to hold your phone at arm’s length, you have presbyopia.

Often people with presbyopia will also find that they need brighter light to see print well. (For example: they’ll use the flashlight on their phones to read menus in dimly-lit restaurants). Others report headaches, fatigue and eye strain when reading or doing fine, detailed work.


What will the eye doctor do?

Your eye doctor (optometrist) can diagnose presbyopia as part of a comprehensive eye exam. In addition to checking for other eye problems, he or she will determine your degree of presbyopia by using a standard vision test during the eye exam.


When should you see your eye doctor?

Although presbyopia can not be cured, presbyopia can be treated. Corrected prescribed glasses or contact lenses will make seeing clearly up close much easier. As the lens in your eye continues to lose flexibility, you may need to change your prescription every few years.


What about those reading glasses at the pharmacist?

You will often find magnifying glasses or ‘readers’ available at most pharmacies or retail shops. While they are perfectly safe and can be handy for temporary use (if you have lost your glasses or left them at home on your way to your favourite dimly-lit restaurant). However, they are, overall, a one-size-fits-all product, and do not take into account your specific vision needs.


What are the benefits of prescription lenses?

Your local optometrist will diagnose your condition, and offer different types of prescription lenses, including bifocals, trifocals and progressive lenses. These lenses are only available from an optometrist.

When prescribing lenses, your optometrist will consider factors that are unique about your vision. They will take into consideration a number of factors such as the position of your eyes; the angle and position of your chosen frame; your usual reading distance; and the distance between your pupils. All of which make prescription glasses unique and beneficial for the wearer. 

To find out more about presbyopia contact your local Eyecare Plus optometrist.

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