Presbyopia, the Lesser-Talked-About, Yet Very Common, Eye Condition
While you may have heard of nearsightedness and farsightedness—myopia and hyperopia—you may not know what presbyopia is. Unlike near and farsightedness, which are refractive errors in vision, presbyopia is a condition that causes people to not be able to focus on objects up close. People who have it may mistake it for farsightedness, as it can have the same symptom of not being able to clearly see things up close. How can you be sure you have this condition and not something else?
Presbyopia can be described as part of the “normal aging process”. As people approach their late 30’s to mid 40’s, the lenses in their eyes begin to thicken and loses some of it’s elasticity (or flexibility). To go one step further – when we look at an object in the distance very small muscles attached to the inter-ocular lens (inside our eyes) flex and make the interocular lens stretch and become thinner. This helps focus light to a single focal point on the retina. Conversely when we gaze at an object up close these very small muscles relax allowing the interocular lens to revert to it’s thicker normal state. As we age the lenses ability to revert to it’s thicker normal state diminishes. This creates vision problems seeing things clearly up close. Most folks in their late 30’s to mid 40’s start to have difficulty seeing object up close – for example reading small print at first and over time even large print becomes difficult to read up close. If your starting to have symptoms of presbyopia you will feel the need to hold books or small print further from your eyes to see it clearly. This loss of up close vision (called accommodation) may seem like it happens quickly, but in reality it happens gradually as you age.
Presbyopia will often have symptoms such as blurred vision at a normal reading distance as well as the need to hold reading material at an arm’s length—the condition is sometimes referred to as “long-arm syndrome,” as it’s what people with presbyopia may do to help themselves see clearly. If you suspect this may be happening to you, it’s important to see an eye doctor. They can help figure out what the issue is as well as suggest treatment or correction options.
Like other eye conditions, presbyopia can be treated with prescription glasses or contact lenses. If you didn’t wear glasses or contacts before the presbyopia appeared, you may able to simply use reading glasses for doing close work with your eyes. Some people also begin using bifocal, trifocal, or the most common type of lenses – called progressive lenses. Progressive lenses provide correction for distance, near and everything in between and are by far the most popular lens for those who have presbyopia as well as either hyperopia, myopia or astigmatism. Over time, you may need to update your prescription to better suit your vision needs, depending on how the presbyopia changes.
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