Presbyopia is another name for the long-sightedness we develop as we head into our mid-40’s. Everyone over the age of forty has presbyopia to a greater or lesser extent. It is caused by a combination of a stiffening of the lens and a weakening of the eye muscles. Presbyopia treatment can allow people to move beyond using reading correction glasses.
Presbyopia – or reading vision problems – is a condition that affects everyone as they get older. It is caused by changes in the crystalline lens, which is located inside the eye. When we are young we have a crystalline lens that is very flexible and the muscles within the eye can manipulate it so that it changes its shape, and therefore its power, so we can focus over a range of distances. This is a reflex and is done automatically without thought or effort. It is called accommodation. As we age, the lens becomes a stiffer, more rigid structure and it becomes harder for the muscles to get the lens to increase in thickness to become more powerful. As such, focusing up close becomes more problematic.
The decrease in accommodating capability starts very early on in life but presbyopia symptoms are not noticed until patients can no longer read without holding items further away. Presbyopia symptoms include:
Patients often first notice the deterioration in the winter months when lighting is worse. There is no cure for presbyopia, and no way of slowing its progression. Without intervention it results in blurred near vision.
Presbyopia is caused through changes in the crystalline lens that occur over time. It is a different condition to hypermetropia or long sightedness, which it is often confused with. Long sightedness is a refractive error that when corrected will allow clear vision at all distances, whilst presbyopia is a “near vision” only eye condition and any correction given will result in clear near vision but will blur the distance vision.
Age related long sightedness (presbyopia) happens because the lens in your eye thickens as you grow older. Your eye sees by allowing light to pass through the cornea and lens and focus on the retina at the back of the eye. In younger people with normal eyesight, the lens flexes so that the light is focused accurately on the retina no matter what the reading distance is.
However, in people over the age of forty, the lens has less flexibility so cannot always focus accurately when you’re looking at something close up. This deteriorates further the older we get and we find ourselves needing more and more power in our reading glasses to cope.
Traditionally, reading glasses can be prescribed to help patients read clearly, but with them on, distance vision will be blurred. Patients with presbyopia can also be prescribed glasses that have either 2 (bifocal) powers (one for distance and one for near), or multiple powers (varifocals) to allow a more blended vision.
Surgical options are available, however. It is important to discuss these options with your eye surgeon, who will explain which presbyopia treatment option may be best for you. This will depend on a number of factors including the severity of your presbyopia and any other eye conditions you may have.
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