What is Presbyopia?

If you have changed your iPhone settings to a larger font — you’re not alone. The gradual loss of the ability to focus on near things, also known as presbyopia, starts at around age 40 and affects many people, including millions of people who previously had perfect vision.

Presbyopia is similar to farsightedness, in that it makes it tough to focus on items close up, but it’s caused by a loss of flexibility in the lens as people age. One of the most obvious signs of presbyopia is the need to hold reading materials at arm’s length in order to focus properly. Other symptoms include eyestrain, headaches or feeling tired from doing up-close work.

Once a change in your eyesight is detected, you should visit an eye care professional. Since nearly everyone develops presbyopia, if a person also has myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) or astigmatism, the conditions will combine. Your optometrist will find the best glasses or contact lenses for you and your lifestyle.

Below are some options to consider:

Reading glasses
Reading glasses are typically worn just during close work such as reading, sewing, etc. These “readers” are easily purchased at drug stores and other retail stores. You can also choose higher-quality versions prescribed by your eye doctor. If you wear contact lenses, your eye doctor can prescribe reading glasses that can be worn with your regular contacts to help you adjust to detailed, close-up work.

Bifocal lenses have two different points of focus. The upper part of the eyeglass lens is set for distance vision, while the lower portion of the lens has a prescription set for seeing close work.

Progressive Lenses
Progressive lenses are similar to bifocals, but they offer a more gradual visual transition between the two prescriptions with no visible line between them.

Multifocal contact lenses
Just as bifocal lenses have two levels of corrective power, multifocal contact lenses create multiple levels of corrective power.

Another way to correct presbyopia with contact lenses is monovision, in which one eye has a contact set for distance, and the other has a contact set for near vision. The brain learns to adapt to using one eye or the other for different tasks.

Because presbyopia cannot be prevented, it is important to visit your eye care provider regularly to ensure you have the correct eyewear to enhance your daily life.

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