Look At Me
The eye works by using the cornea and lens to bend incoming light that bounces off of objects. When light focuses on the back of the eye, a clear image is transported to the brain. If the cornea and lens are unable to focus light correctly, those same images appear cloudy or blurry. Presbyopia is one factor that can cause this distortion.
Adjust your lens
The lens has the unique ability to change shape with the help of the ciliary body. These ciliary muscles can stretch the lens when focusing on distant objects and shrink the tissue for seeing up close. Called accommodation, the lens can adjust to see at various focal distances in the literal blink of an eye.
I’m not voting for that
Over time, the lens begins to lose these elastic properties. The condition is known as presbyopia, where protein changes cause lenticular tissue to thicken and become hard. Similarly, ciliary muscles weaken and lose some functionality in controlling the lens. In tandem, these two issues limit the eye’s ability to focus on nearby objects.
Don’t get old
Presbyopia is almost always age-related and starts to develop around age 40 and is a natural part of growing older. The condition typically continues to worsen until patients reach somewhere in the mid-60s. However, certain medical issues or drugs for other maladies can lead to premature presbyopia. Currently, an estimated 1.8 billion people worldwide deal with presbyopia on an ongoing basis.
Reach for the stars
Patients with presbyopia often experience blurry vision when trying to view objects at a normal reading distance. These same items only come into focus when held further out, typically at arm’s length. Because of the eye strain when doing work up close, presbyopia can also cause headaches or fatigue. These symptoms may appear worse in dim lighting.
Eye doctors can diagnose presbyopia through a comprehensive eye exam. A specific test called a refraction measures how well the eye sees at different distances. In addition to presbyopia, the physician’s findings can also determine if a patient is nearsighted, farsighted, or has astigmatism.
No turning back
There’s no way to reverse the effects of presbyopia at this time, although research is underway to restore accommodation in some instances. Early on, patients may be able to get away with holding objects slightly further from the face to see clearly. Brighter lighting conditions or larger print can also alleviate eye strain when reading. As presbyopia worsens, individuals may have to look elsewhere for help.
Eyeglasses are perhaps the most common means of battling the effects of presbyopia. For individuals without other vision issues, over-the-counter or prescription reading glasses provide amplification when seeing up close. A healthcare specialist can help determine the right magnification power, which will likely change with time. Bifocals or trifocals can work wonders for patients in need of correction for distance vision as well. The lower section offers a boost for objects close up.
Alternatively, contact lenses can serve a similar purpose. Bifocal contacts work just like glasses, containing both distance and close-up correction within one lens. With monovision contact lenses, patients wear a lens in one eye for distance and near vision in the other.
Refractive surgery may also be an option for patients with presbyopia. A procedure like laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) changes the shape of the cornea and how light enters the eye. Surgeons can adjust one cornea for close-up vision and the other for distance, just like with monovision contacts.