Presbyopia: Symptoms and treatments of reading glasses

© John Angerson ICR 131113London Vision Clinic

In your early to mid-40s, it’s likely you’ll begin to experience a deterioration in the quality of your vision.

At first, you may notice slight difficulty focusing on objects at close distances. This is expected — in fact, most of the population experience it between the ages of 40-60. You’ll probably think nothing of it, dismissing it as “just another sign of getting older.”

But the annoyance persists, causing you to hold materials further and further away from your face until your arm isn’t long enough to read them clearly. It disrupts your ability to read the newspaper, do the shopping, work at a computer, or simply use your phone.

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But not being able to read text messages and small print is more than just a nuisance, it’s a medical condition known in the profession as presbyopia. Presbyopia describes the loss of elasticity in the lens of the eye that causes light to focus on a point behind the retina — much like in hyperopia (long-sightedness) — and close-up objects to appear out of focus.

Do you have these symptoms of presbyopia?

In presbyopia, the eye’s ability to focus on close objects gradually decreases over a number of years. Everyone will experience it, most likely in middle age, but not everyone will experience the same symptoms at the same time.

Difficulty doing close work and reading: As the lens in the eye becomes harder and less flexible, it makes it more difficult for your eyes to change the point of focus for near objects. Printed materials are less clear, text on screens is blurry, and close up work like sewing is suddenly more challenging.

Reduced tear production: As we age our tear ducts and the muscles around the eye become less able to do their job effectively. As a result, your eyes may feel dry and irritated. This is a sign that usually accompanies problems in near vision and can exacerbate issues; having an adequate amount of moisture in the eye is essential for healthy eyes and clear sight.

Need for more light: One of the first things you may notice is the need for more light, whether it’s a brighter light when working or more lamp light when reading in bed. This is due to the muscles that control your pupil size and reaction to light losing strength and the pupil admitting less light into the eye.

Changes in colour perception: Colour vision continues to deteriorate as you get older, particularly affecting your blue-yellow vision. This occurs when the clear lens inside your eye can starts to discolour. You may notice it’s harder to see and distinguish between certain colour shades, particularly washed out colours, as well as you once could.

Problems with glare: Due to the loss of focusing power, light entering the eye can be scattered rather than precisely centred on the retina. This creates glare from brights lights or reflective surfaces like windshields – an issue which can cause significant problems when driving.

What you can do to correct presbyopia

The response to ignore presbyopia is rooted in the idea that it’s just another annoyance you have to deal with as you get older. Typically, it’s suggested you either switch your current prescription to bifocal or multifocal lenses or get a new one and start a life of dependency on reading glasses. This is an unattractive prospect for many people as much like crutches, reading glasses are only suitable as temporary visual aids: they are not permanent solutions.

Glasses with bifocal or progressive addition lenses (PALs) are the most common method of vision correction for presbyopia. Bifocals work by providing two points of focus, correcting your sight for both distance and close-up vision. PALs provide a more gradual visual transition — without the lines found in bifocals — and disguise the fact that you’re wearing bifocal lenses.

You can also correct presbyopia with multifocal contact lenses or monovision, which work in a similar way to bifocals. On one eye you wear a prescription for near vision and the other a prescription for distance. Monovision may be effective for some people, but in others, it results in a loss of depth perception and a reduction in visual acuity.

Thanks to modern Laser Eye Surgery techniques, today there is a permanent solution to correcting presbyopia — without the need for unhygienic (and therefore riskier) contact lenses, pesky glasses, or risky artificial implants. Not only is Laser Blended Vision safer, more effective, and easier to adapt to, but unlike for example monovision contact lenses which are suitable for only around half of patients, it is appropriate for up to 96 percent of people.

Unfortunately, presbyopia is not something that eventually goes away if you ignore it long enough, but rather it gets worse with time. Recognising this fact is the first step to finding a solution; the next step is choosing the right treatment for you and taking the leap to securing many more years of crystal clear vision.

Have a question about the symptoms or treatments of presbyopia? Ask us in the comments below. Or if you’d like to book a consultation with us, give us a call us on 020 7224 1005.

Presbyopia: Symptoms and treatments of reading glasses