Has a display of trendy and colourful reading glasses caught your eye? You may have noticed how widely available they are these days. They’re also increasingly stylish.
That’s good news, since almost all of us will develop presbyopia after age 40. Presbyopia is a condition that makes it difficult to focus on objects that are close up, like reading material. If you’ve started holding books or the newspaper at arms’ length and you’re over 40, it’s likely that presbyopia is the cause.
What is presbyopia?
Presbyopia is a gradual worsening in the ability to see objects that are up close. It happens as the crystalline lenses in our eyes become less flexible. It’s a natural occurrence as we age.
When we focus on something close to us, muscles in our eye constrict to change the shape of the lens and enable us to see the object clearly. As our lenses become more rigid, they can no longer change shape as effectively, resulting in images that are out of focus.
Most people begin to notice the symptoms of presbyopia in their 40s or 50s, but in fact, it’s a condition that develops gradually throughout our lives. Almost everyone begins to notice the symptoms at some point.
Although the symptoms are similar, presbyopia is not the same as farsightedness. Farsightedness has nothing to do with the flexibility of your lenses and is instead the result of a short eyeball. Also known as hyperopia, most people who are afflicted are born with it.
How do I know if I have presbyopia?
Presbyopia can be diagnosed during a basic eye exam. Our optometrists will perform a refraction assessment that allows us to determine how clearly you see objects at varying distances. It can identify whether or not you require corrective lenses, and if so, what prescription you’ll need.
If you’re over 40, you may begin noticing signs of presbyopia. In addition to holding things further away to read them, objects may become increasingly blurry at usual distances. As well, you may experience eye strain or headaches, especially when working on something up close.
Some medical conditions can increase your risk of developing presbyopia prematurely (before age 40). These include diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and cardiovascular disease. Antidepressants, antihistamines, and diuretics may also increase your risk.
What’s the treatment?
Fortunately, presbyopia is usually easily treatable. Many people find that convenient over-the-counter readers are sufficient to sharpen their focus. These glasses come in powers ranging from +1.00 diopter (D) to +3.00.
Once we’ve identified that you’ll benefit from readers, we’ll recommend a specific strength. It’s still best to try them before you buy them, though. Test out each pair on reading material held at a comfortable distance and start with the lowest power that provides you with clear vision.
Over-the-counter readers are most likely to work well for you if you have good, uncorrected vision before noticing presbyopia. If you already wear prescription lenses for nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism, you’ll need to update your prescription to accommodate the changes in your vision.
Some patients choose to wear bifocals, which include two different prescriptions, one for distance at the top with a smaller portion for reading at the bottom. Others choose trifocals or progressives, which allow for a gradual shift between multiple prescriptions.
If you already wear contact lenses, you may be able to continue doing so. Ask us how we can help you adjust to your changing eyesight.
Since presbyopia affects almost everyone at some point in their lives, afflicting men and women equally, it’s recommended that adults have regular eye exams so that we can assess your vision and identify any concerns. Presbyopia will gradually worsen into your mid-50s, so you may require adjustments to your corrective lenses every couple of years.
If you’ve noticed that your vision is becoming less clear when reading, or are experiencing headaches or other bothersome symptoms, book an appointment as soon as possible. Presbyopia is as natural a part of aging as getting wrinkles. Although it’s never pleasant to experience these kinds of changes, at least with presbyopia, you’ll be able to have some fun with a fashionable and affordable selection of readers!