There’s a good chance that you or a loved one have experienced the dreadful realization that your up-close vision just isn’t what it used to be. Unexpectedly, sometime in your 40’s, your arms suddenly aren’t long enough to hold your reading material, and everything you attempt to read is blurry. This is known as presbyopia, and it oftentimes comes with dread and frustration. While this natural process may require some adaptation, it is a painless process that eventually happens to everyone, regardless of ocular health.
Behind the iris lies the eye’s focusing system, which entails a crystalline lens and a muscle called the ciliary body. In young eyes, the focusing system is flexible and robust, allowing the eye to easily switch from viewing objects in the distance to focusing on near objects. As we grow older, natural aging changes occur in both the crystalline lens and the ciliary body. These changes cause the focusing system to become less effective. Eventually, the focusing system is unable to change the eye’s optics in order to properly focus on near objects, and we begin to notice the symptoms of presbyopia.
Symptoms of presbyopia are often suddenly noticed; one day you are able to read the newspaper perfectly fine, and the next day you struggle to read a packaging label. In early presbyopia, you can usually manage with an adjustment to your working distance; holding objects further away than normal places less of a demand on the focusing system, and small text won’t seem so blurry. Many nearsighted people are able to remove their glasses and see up-close object more clearly. Over-the-counter reading glasses, also called “cheaters,” can be an easy fix for some people. However, these solutions are typically short-term or become exhausting after some time. Luckily, there are several other options that can provide more efficient relief from the relentless symptoms of presbyopia.
This solution to presbyopia has been around for a very long time, and is used by millions of presbyopes. In a bifocal lens design, the top portion of the lens is made to correct for distance vision. A small reading segment is placed in the bottom portion of the lens, allowing the wearer to move their eyes downward into the reading prescription. Another similar option is known as progressive add lenses, also known as no-line bifocals. In these lenses, ther distance prescription is still towards the top of the lens, an intermediate prescription is in the middle portion of the lens, and the reading prescription is in the bottom portion of the lens. Some people find no-line bifocals more cosmetically appealing, and lots of presbyopes find the central intermediate portion of the lens to be ideal for activities such as computer work or viewing the dashboard while driving. Both bifocals and progressive lenses have their pros and cons; your eye doctor can make a recommendation best suited for you.
For those experiencing presbyopia who want to be completely free of glasses, multifocal contact lenses may be an option. There are several designs of contact lenses for presbyopes that can provide clear vision for both distance and near vision, ranging from daily to monthly lenses, and even some lenses that can address astigmatism in addition to presbyopia.
Many people view presbyopia as a source of embarrassment, but this shouldn’t be the case. Everyone who has enough birthdays, will experience some degree of presbyopia. If you are struggling to adapt or tired of stretching your arms to read text, talk to Dr. Spina and Premier Eye Associates about your options for managing the condition.