Vision Changes – Is Age a Factor?
Getting older can be a difficult reality to get your head around. Seeing things up close, for instance, is one of those changes that can often be frustrating when you first notice the symptoms.
Are you moving your iPhone further and further away to see it? Selecting the largest font on your Kindle Fire or moving your favorite murder novel out to arm’s length to read? It’s called presbyopia. Pronounced: press-b-OH’-p-uh. Presbyopia is a fancy term that describes what happens to all of us around 38-45 years of age. The crystalline lens in our eyes focuses in and out like crazy all of our lives to see everything up close. But eventually that ability is lost as part of the normal aging process.
There’s nothing wrong with you. You aren’t going crazy. It’s not a tumor. Everybody’s different, but your ability to focus at near gradually deteriorates until you reach a point where you need help seeing up close.
With all of our modern day science and technology, you’d think there was a magic pill to fix this. Captain Picard on Star Trek The Next Generation had to deal with presbyopia. Apparently in the future someone invented a drug that “fixes” this problem and most people never needed reading glasses. I think it was called Presbygen. Okay, I admit I’m a Trekker. But Captain Picard had an artificial heart that for some reason precluded him from taking that magic pill, so he was destined to use readers, much to his dismay.
Anyway, back in good old 2012, once you’ve reached that point in your life where you need help up close, you should have a complete eye exam to be sure your eyes are healthy. Something you should be doing every year anyway. Then your doctor can explain to you several options that will help you see up close clearly and comfortably. Since presbyopia has nothing to do with your far away vision, your eye doctor can show you ways to integrate both your far and near needs. For example, you may choose just to use the occasional readers. These are glasses with various magnifying powers that are only for near work. To look across the room you look over top of them. Your doctor needs to determine the ideal power for you and your lifestyle. It’s not recommended to just pick a power, any power off of the dime store shelf.
You can also select a bifocal or trifocal lens design in your glasses. This puts in a magnifying power along the bottom of your glasses, or, with the trifocal, a near power and an intermediate power are added along the lower portion of the lenses. The bifocal or trifocal used to be the only glasses option, but now there is the “no-line” bifocal or the progressive lens design. This is the coolest because it puts all of your vision needs into one lens design with hundreds of infinitesimal power changes getting progressively stronger and stronger. But there is no line so no one knows you are wearing a “multi-focal” lens! The advantages of this design are many. You have far vision, and near vision, but all the in-between vision needs are met as well. Like your computer monitor, prices in the store, your car dashboard and music.
Contact lenses are also available for those needing help at near. One option is called monovision. This is where one eye is corrected for best far vision, and the other is corrected for a near power. Luckily the human brain figures it out, but this may not work well for everyone. Another choice is the multi-focal contact lens. These are designed similar to the no-line bifocal glasses, giving fairly good vision at all distances.
Some of my patients use several of these options as is dictated by their work, sports and leisure needs. You don’t have to pick just one. For example, a 52 year old business woman uses her progressive glasses at work every day, but uses distance only sunglasses when playing tennis. Another patient, a 65 year old rifle shooting enthusiast, needs no glasses for his general far away vision, but when shooting he uses a progressive lens, yellow of course, with no power on top and a low magnification power to see the rifle’s sights. Yet another patient, a 63 year old retired librarian uses readers while at home reading a book, but pops in one “near power” contact lens when going out with the girls. That way she can see far away to drive there, and read the menu when she gets there without having to pull out the reading glasses!
There are also LASIK options and cataract implant options that address these issues. These are bigger topics that we’ll go over in more detail in future blogs.
As I tell my patients, denial is also an option. But it only gets you so far. It’s going to happen regardless of your diet, weight, gender or race. It is what it is! So embrace it and try one of these options to get you back on track with clear vision at all distances to fit your lifestyle.