Presbyopia (age-related farsightedness)
Tuesday 1 June 2021
Have you started enlarging the text on your phone? Holding menus at arm’s length? Are you convinced that small print is even smaller than it used to be?!
If you’re nodding in agreement – and you’re in your 40s – you could be experiencing presbyopia.
Even those who’ve enjoyed 20/20 vision into adulthood will find their eyes ageing along with the rest of their body. But this natural process is nothing to worry about.
What is presbyopia?
Presbyopia may be one of the most common conditions you’ve never heard of. It’s the normal age-related decline of your ability to focus on things up close (near focusing), and it happens to everyone.
Fun fact: the word presbyopia is derived from the Greek for ‘old eye’. Great!
What causes it?
To focus on close objects, the lens inside your eye has to flex. From childhood onwards, the lens gradually becomes less flexible. And eventually – usually around your mid-40s – you start to notice it in the form of blurred near vision.
As presbyopia is a progressive condition (meaning it’ll get worse rather than better), it’s something we all need to know about, and accept.
How do I know if I have it?
If you’re in your 40s and starting to hold reading material further away than you used to, it’s likely you have early presbyopia. That said, it can happen when you’re a bit younger, or a bit older (around your early 50s). If you’re short-sighted, you may find taking your glasses off corrects the issue.
In younger people, these symptoms can be caused by visual disorders that mimic the effects of presbyopia. They can even be brought on by prolonged near-vision stress, like digital eye strain.
Either way, if there’s any change in your vision it’s time to see an optometrist.
Can it be prevented?
In a word – no. While muscles control the flexing of the lens, the problem is down to the stiffening of the lens itself, so exercising these muscles won’t help.
The good news is that there are lots of ways to correct presbyopia. Options include single vision reading glasses, multifocal glasses, contact lenses or a combination of these. There are even some surgical procedures such as refractive surgery or lens implants that can address the condition.
Will reading glasses weaken my eyes?
No – there’s no evidence that reading glasses can increase, or slow, the deterioration associated with presbyopia. So rest assured that your specs will be a help, not a hindrance.
The fact is everyone will need to reach for their reading glasses more often as they get older. Your prescription will probably increase several times until your vision plateaus in your early to mid-60s.
On the plus side, you’ll have a good reason for treating yourself to some fancy frames!