You may be experiencing ‘presbyopia’ – a common condition that makes vision difficult at closer distances. It is not a disease and does not represent a threat to your eye health. You may find that close tasks such as reading or sewing become more difficult, particularly in poor light. You may have difficulty concentrating on near tasks for long periods of time or you may be holding things further away from your eyes to try to see it more clearly.
Normally your eyes are focussed or relaxed when looking at distant objects. To focus on close objects some muscles inside your eye work to change the shape of your lens. This is called accommodation. With age the lens and muscles lose their flexibility, just like stiffening joints and greying hair. This loss of flexibility is the reason that focusing on close objects becomes more difficult. Everyone experiences presbyopia and the condition cannot be prevented.
Although difficulties with close vision may seem to come on suddenly, the ageing process that causes presbyopia is gradual, and most people experience symptoms between 40 and 45 years of age. From around 45 to 65 years of age the amount of presbyopia increases, making near work more and more difficult.
Presbyopia is corrected by a spectacle or contact lens prescription designed for close distances. Through a discussion with your optometrist about your visual tasks and working distances, you will be able to decide on the best visual correction for you. Reading glasses will make your near vision clear but your distance vision blurry. Some people prefer to wear reading glasses for close tasks only and remove them for distance tasks. However, some people find it inconvenient to remove their glasses all the time, so they may choose to correct their presbyopia with bifocals, progressives (multifocals), lookovers or contact lenses.
Between 45 and 65 years of age your prescription is likely to change significantly, so it is sensible to have your eyes examined at least every 2 years during this time. As eye diseases can also become more common from this age, if you are experiencing any visual difficulties at any time, you should get it checked by your optometrist. Presbyopia is a natural ageing change in the eye that will progress whether you wear glasses or not and whether you read or not. Wearing glasses or contact lenses will not accelerate or slow the progression, they will simply make it easier to see.
Nicky Carr is our full time optometrist and is also our practice owner.