If you’re 40 or older and find that you can't read up close like before, you may have a very common eye condition. You may have age-related farsightedness. It is also known as presbyopia — which means “aging eye” in Greek.
In addition to difficulty focusing up close, symptoms may include headaches and eye strain.
“Symptoms vary in severity,” says David Horie, MD, an optometrist at Scripps Clinic Rancho Bernardo and Scripps Clinic Encinitas. “Some people may notice considerable changes in their close vision, while others may not notice as significant a difference.”
This age-related vision problem cannot be prevented but it can be treated. The first step is to get an eye exam. An eye care specialist can diagnose and treat presbyopia, usually by prescribing corrective lenses.
“An eye care provider can diagnose and determine whether you have presbyopia, which is very common, or another condition that could be more serious,” says Dr. Horie.
As the lens of the eye ages, it becomes harder and less flexible and loses its ability to precisely focus light onto the retina. Instead, it focuses light behind the retina, which blurs close vision. Aging also weakens muscle fibers within the eye, making it more difficult to focus on close objects.
Some adults should see an eye care specialist sooner if they have an eye disease or risk factors, such as diabetes, high blood pressure or family history of eye disease.
A refraction or vision test is part of an eye exam that measures how well you see at various instances.
Eye dilation, using special eye drops, is done to examine the inner parts of your eyes for any age-related eye issues.
Age-related farsightedness can be managed in many ways. Eyeglasses, contact lenses and even surgery can help correct your vision.
Reading glasses are the most common solution for presbyopia and can help your eyes focus on nearby objects.
Over-the-counter reading glasses can be found in varying strengths at local drug stores but have limits. Prescription reading glasses take into account the individual prescription strength needed.
“It’s a good idea to have your ophthalmologist or optometrist determine which strength is best for you before you purchase eyeglasses,” Dr. Horie adds. “Even a slightly weaker or stronger prescription than necessary may cause eye strain or headaches.”
People who already wear eyeglasses may be able to switch to bifocals, which have two different prescriptions in one lens that are separated by a visible horizontal line. The top part of the lens corrects for distance vision, while the lower part is for close vision.
Progressive bifocals are a bit different. They offer a gradual transition between the two prescriptions. and do not have visible horizontal lines.
Contact lens wearers may just need reading glasses. They may also wear a lens for distance vision in one eye — usually your dominant eye — and a lens for close vision in the other, a process called monovision.
Some people who are good candidates choose surgery to reduce or eliminate their dependence on eyeglasses or contacts.
Refractive surgery can improve or correct presbyopia-related vision problems. It is a minimally invasive outpatient procedure that involves the reshaping of the cornea. The most widely used is LASIK eye surgery, where a laser is used to reshape the cornea.