The most common complaint from my patients aged 40 and over is that they are having a difficult time reading. Most think that this has occurred overnight and that there has to be something wrong. This is the moment during their exam where I give my infamous response: “welcome to the four-o’s”, meaning you’ve reached the age where presbyopia, the normal loss of near focusing ability, has started to affect you. Like myopia and hyperopia, presbyopia is simply a correctable refractive error.
It is the natural lens of the eye’s flexibility that allows us to focus from near to distant objects and vice versa. During presbyopia, age related changes within the proteins of the lens cause it to become rigid and less flexible, losing the elasticity needed to focus up close. Since this is part of the normal aging process, majority of people are not affected until their early forties. This process usually continues until the late fifties. Since most people work on computers for a living, presbyopia can be quite bothersome. Signs of presbyopia include eye strain, headaches, difficulty reading and the need to hold objects farther away in order to see them clearly.
Presbyopia is diagnosed during an annual eye exam. It can occur along with myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), or alone. Treatment options include bifocal glasses, which also have options to choose from, readers, or contact lenses. When it comes to presbyopia, contacts can be a great option. Monovision is a choice many people opt to try; with monovision, contacts will correct one eye for distance and one eye for near. This eliminates the need for the continuous “on and off” wearing associated with over the counter reading glasses. For people who can’t or simply don’t wish to wear contact lenses, reading and bifocal glasses will combat the effects of presbyopia and make reading comfortable again.
If age forty is right around the corner and/or your ability to read within arm’s length distance has become more difficult, don’t fret; what you’re experiencing is normal and there is help available. Stop on by for an eye exam and we can discuss the many options that’ll get things back in focus.