reading glasses sitting on top of a worksheet titled presbyopia

Presbyopia – What’s Behind this Age-related Condition?

If you’re over the age of 40 and have recently noticed that you’re having trouble reading things up close, you probably have presbyopia. Everyone eventually experiences this age-related condition, not just those who have previously had vision problems.

Check out the following video for a brief introduction to presbyopia, or continue below for more detailed information on signs and symptoms, causes and correction of presbyopia.

Signs and Symptoms

Have you recently noticed that you need to hold magazines, books or your laptop farther from your eyes to see clearly? Do you find it necessary to use a brighter light to read? Are you forced to squint in order to read small print? If you’re over the age of 40, the culprit is likely presbyopia.

Headaches and eyestrain are other common signs of presbyopia, particularly when they occur while using a computer or reading something in print.

Cause of Presbyopia

A muscle in your eye called the ciliary muscle allows the eye’s lens to flex in order to focus on objects at various distances. As the ciliary muscle contracts and relaxes, the tension on the lens changes. This, in turn, changes the shape and focusing power of the lens. This process is called accommodation.

As you age, the lenses of your eyes get thicker and become less elastic, which compromises their ability to change shape and interferes with their ability to focus. As a result, near vision becomes blurry.

Is Presbyopia the Same as Farsightedness?

Presbyopia is not the same thing as farsightedness (hyperopia). It is often confused with farsightedness because they both cause things to appear blurry up close. In reality, farsightedness is a separate condition that happens when the eyeball is too short or the cornea is too flat, both of which make it difficult for the eye to focus light on the retina.

Unlike presbyopia, the onset of farsightedness usually occurs when we’re young. It can lead to blurry vision up close or at multiple distances.

If you have farsightedness, your glasses may become less effective as you age, so you may need to wear reading glasses even before presbyopia kicks in.

Correction of Presbyopia

There are many different treatments for presbyopia, including the following:

Eyeglasses. Reading glasses are often sufficient to address your presbyopia if you didn’t require corrective lenses to see prior to the onset of presbyopia. They also might work well if you wear contacts and have recently begun to experience the effects of presbyopia. If you already wear glasses to correct your nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism, you may choose to wear glasses with multifocal lenses. There are three types: progressives, bifocals and trifocals.

Contact Lenses. If you have used contact lenses in the past, you may prefer to stick with contacts to treat your presbyopia. In addition to multifocal contacts, monovision with contacts is an option. This involves wearing one contact geared toward distance vision and the other for near vision.

Eye Surgery. Thanks to advancements in technology and technique, procedures such as LASIK and cataract surgery can now be tailored to treat presbyopia as well. These procedures allow you to free yourself of contacts and lessen or eliminate your dependence on glasses. Some of the procedures available to correct presbyopia include multifocal LASIK, refractive lens exchange (RLE) to implant multifocal or accommodating IOLs, and conductive keratoplasty.

Ask your eye surgeon for more information on these treatments. For a comprehensive explanation of the various treatments to correct presbyopia, please refer to our article on this subject.