When you were in your twenties and thirties, you probably thought of aging as an intangible process that would eventually “happen to you” in the distant, abstract future — but it wasn’t something you had to worry about today.
Age-related farsightedness, or presbyopia, is an inescapable part of getting older — even if you’ve always had 20/20 vision. Here, Dr. Markiel Yakubov of Elite Eye Care in New York City discusses why everyone can expect to develop this age-related refractive error at some point, and explains how you can easily correct the problem when it happens to you.
That notion probably changed sometime in your early forties, but not because you started seeing more fine lines and gray hairs. Instead, you likely realized you were “aging” the day you noticed that you had to hold reading material at arm’s length just to see the words clearly.
Your aging eyes: All about presbyopia
Presbyopia, or age-related farsightedness, is the progressive loss of clear close-up vision. As an expected part of the normal aging process, it happens when the soft, flexible ocular lens — or the inner part of your eye that helps focus your vision — becomes less flexible with age.
The inner ocular lens works together with the cornea, or your eye’s outer “clear window,” to focus light correctly on your retina. The retina is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye that converts light into electric signals, which it then passes on to your brain via the optic nerve.
When your ocular lenses are young, they’re soft and flexible. But as you age, your lenses continue to grow, forming new layers of cells. Much like layers of an onion, these additional layers progressively thicken your lenses and make them less flexible.
When the ocular lens becomes thicker and less pliant, the light that passes through it doesn’t land properly on your retina, which causes close objects to look blurry. Telltale signs of presbyopia include:
- Trouble focusing on nearby objects; blurred vision at a close distance.
- The need to hold reading material at an arm’s length to see it clearly.
- The need for brighter illumination when you’re reading or working.
- Headaches or tired eyes following a period of intense close-up work.
Although presbyopia tends to get progressively worse before it stabilizes, it’s important to remember that age-related farsightedness is a common and treatable refractive error — not a vision-robbing eye disease. Billions of adults worldwide live with this vision problem at any given time, and in each case, the problem is easy to correct.
Is there any way to avoid presbyopia?
Given that eye care specialists and researchers haven’t found a way to prevent or even slow the normal midlife eye changes that make your ocular lenses less flexible, there’s no way to avoid developing presbyopia as you get older.
Whether you’ve always had perfect, 20/20 vision or you’ve been wearing corrective lenses to offset a refractive error for years, once you hit middle age, you can expect your close-up vision to start getting blurry.
When does presbyopia usually occur?
While the average person develops obvious signs of presbyopia around the age of 40, it may take a few years for its effects to become more pronounced or disruptive. Presbyopia is also a progressive condition, meaning it continues advancing and worsening for many years before it eventually stabilizes.
Without vision correction, most people with presbyopia find themselves always having to hold their cell phone and other reading material at arm’s length by the age of 45. The condition gets progressively worse until about the age of 65, when age-related ocular lens inflexibility usually stabilizes for good.
It’s also possible to develop premature presbyopia. You have an increased risk of developing presbyopia before the age of 40 if you’re already farsighted, if you take certain medications (i.e., antihistamines, antidepressants), or if you have certain chronic health conditions (i.e., diabetes, heart disease, multiple sclerosis).
Presbyopia correction: See clearly again
While most people recognize the signs of this inevitable refractive error when it happens to them, it’s also something we diagnose during routine comprehensive eye examinations. Luckily, it’s easy to fix with:
- Prescription eyeglasses
- Prescription contact lenses
- Vision-correcting surgery
The inexpensive “granny reader” glasses available at most pharmacies are also specifically designed to offset the effects of presbyopia. While they can certainly be helpful, having easy access to these non-prescription readers shouldn’t stop you from having regular eye exams, which are the best way to protect your vision and stay on top of your ocular health.
To learn more or schedule your next comprehensive eye exam at Elite Eye Care, call or click online to make an appointment at your nearest New York City location today: We have one office in Brooklyn, and four offices throughout the Bronx.