(BlackDoctor.org) — When you’re getting older there are a few things you can fake. You can cover your gray hair with dye, you can whiten your teeth, and you can even camouflage your wrinkles with makeup. But your eyesight is a whole other story.
One of the truest signs of aging is discovering that you need to hold menus and newspapers at arm’s length in order to read them. This usually means that presbyopia has set in, a condition in which the lens of the eye loses its ability to focus, making it difficult to see objects up close. This type of farsightedness is associated with aging and gets worse before reaching a plateau. The focusing power of the eye depends on the elasticity of the lens. This elasticity is gradually lost as people age. The result is a slow decrease in the ability of the eye to focus on nearby objects.
People usually notice the condition around age 45, when they realize that they need to hold reading materials farther away in order to focus on them. Presbyopia is a natural part of the aging process and affects practically everyone.
Blurred close vision that leaves eyes tired and strained is an early hint of presbyopia’s arrival. After reading or doing other detail work, you may find it hard to see distant objects clearly; the problem may be more pronounced after reading in poor light, or in the evening when you are tired. The condition occurs regardless of whether you are nearsighted, farsighted or astigmatic. However, presbyopia often affects farsighted people at a younger age than those who are myopic (nearsighted). If you’re nearsighted, you may be able to overcome presbyopia when it first develops simply by taking off your glasses to read. Eventually, however, as your presbyopia worsens and the lens of your eye becomes stiffer, you may need corrective lenses or other measures to cope with this common condition.
How To See What You’re Missing
Corrective lenses. The most common remedy for presbyopia is optical correction, a.k.a. reading glasses. If you already wear corrective lenses, you might consider bifocals, trifocals or progressive lenses, which combine several levels of adjustment to correct both distance and close-up vision problems.
Some people use two pairs of glasses—one for distance and one for close work. Many drugstores and supermarkets carry magnifying reading glasses that may help. Consult your ophthalmologist about an appropriate strength before purchasing a pair, and never buy reading glasses in lieu of having an eye examination.
You can also get prescription contact lenses that correct the vision in one eye for reading and the other for distance—a technique called monovision. Multifocal contact lenses (combining several levels of adjustment, as found in reading glasses) are also available. Whichever type of lens you choose, you may need frequent changes in prescription, because presbyopia often becomes progressively worse until about ages 60 to 65, when it stabilizes.