Does it happen often that when your kid shows you a meme on the phone, you end up squinting at the screen, keeping it at a distance, trying to figure out what’s funny! Or at restaurants, where reading the menu is easier when you hold it a little away from yourself? You might be suffering from presbyopia. Chances are your doctor already told you so and you fret searched “presbyopia meaning” and landed here. Well, you have landed in the right place!
In this blog, get to know more about what is presbyopia, the signs & symptoms, causes and available treatments for it.
What is Presbyopia?
In simple terms, presbyopia is the loss of the ability of the eye to change focus according to the distance of the object. Often confused with farsightedness, presbyopia is actually age-related far-sightedness that makes it difficult for the person to focus on objects up-close. Here’s an interesting fact to keep in mind the next time someone asks you what is the definition of presbyopia; a loose Greek translation for this medical term is “old eyes’ ‘. It is actually a part of growing older and is as natural as the process of ageing. Rather than a disease, presbyopia is more often seen as a byproduct of ageing, like wrinkles!
The clear lens present in the eye, behind the iris, changes shape to help focus light correctly onto the retina to form clear images. When we are young, the lenses are soft and flexible enough to effectively change shape and focus light according to the distance of the object. However, with growing age, the lens hardens and loses its ability to change shape; making it difficult for the individual to do up-close tasks like reading, threading a needle, or looking at mobile screens.
Presbyopia generally starts appearing by the age of 40 and progressively worsens by around the late 60s. It affects people regardless of sex and lasts throughout the person’s lifetime. It may also complicate other eye conditions like farsightedness, nearsightedness and astigmatism. Presbyopia cannot be prevented but it can be corrected with measures like prescription eyeglasses to help enjoy clear vision.
Presbyopia signs and symptoms
If you are reading this blog on your mobile screen right now, with your arm stretched to hold the mobile at a distance, that’s your first sign right there!
Other common presbyopia signs and symptoms include:
- Persistent eye stains often accompanied by a headache
- Trouble reading small print
- Difficulty in reading in dim light
- Inability to complete up-close tasks
- Blurred vision at normal reading distance
- Increased eye fatigue after tasks like reading up-close
- Squinting to focus on objects nearby
If you are above the age of 40 and facing any of the mentioned presbyopia signs and symptoms, don’t dismiss it as petty problems. Your doctor will prescribe corrective eyeglasses so that you don’t keep squinting every time you check a message on your phone.
Imagine your eyes like a camera. Just like a camera focuses light to produce images, the lens in the eye adjusts external light and bends them by changing shape to focus it correctly on the retina. The lens and cornea work together to refract light according to the distance of the object. With growing age, the lenses continue to grow with added layers of cells, causing them to stiffen up and make them less flexible. The light does not bend properly and the image may form behind or in front of the retina, rather than on the retina. This leads to blurred and hazy vision characteristic to presbyopia.
Age is an important risk factor for presbyopia but it may also be seen in individuals below the age of 40. This type of presbyopia is called premature presbyopia. Premature presbyopia may have other underlying ocular or health issues at work and needs immediate medical attention.
Here are some of the presbyopia causes or risk factors:
- Age: Almost everyone experiences presbyopia to some extent once they cross the age of 40. However, some studies have proven that women above 40 may be at higher risk of presbyopia as compared to men.
- Other medical conditions: Farsightedness, diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, etc. can lead to premature presbyopia.
- Drugs or other medications: Antidepressants, diuretics, antihistamines and certain other drugs can also lead to symptoms of premature presbyopia.
Before we get into presbyopia treatment, let’s quickly understand how presbyopia is diagnosed. Presbyopia symptoms can be detected and confirmed by a basic eye exam which includes a refraction assessment and general eye test. A refraction assessment tests the ability of the eyes to bend and focus light and determines whether you have nearsightedness, farsightedness, presbyopia, or astigmatism. The eye doctor may use various tools and lenses to test your distance and up-close eyesight. The general eye test may involve the use of eye drops that help dilate the pupils so the doctor gets a better view of the eyes.
All eye health-related articles can’t help but stress the importance of getting regular eye checkups done. We are going to do the same. Regular eye tests help keep your eye health in check and detect abnormalities early on to prevent severe damage to eye functions. Especially if you are above the age of 40, don’t make the mistake of skipping eye care appointments!
Now, let’s get to presbyopia treatment options:
- Eyeglasses are the simplest and most effective way to correct vision problems caused by presbyopia. Prescription reading glasses, bifocal lenses (for those with both nearsightedness as well as farsightedness), and office progressives (for prolonged screen time) can help you see better without fatigue or headaches.
- Contact lenses too are a convenient way to tackle presbyopia symptoms. However, prescriptive contact lenses are not recommended for people with preexisting conditions related to tear ducts or dry eye syndrome.
- Refractive surgery: It is a surgical process that alters the shape of the cornea and improves up-close vision. However, even after surgery, you might need the assistance of prescription glasses. Refractive surgeries include:
- Conductive keratoplasty
- LASIK surgery
- Photorefractive keratectomy
- Lens implant: This presbyopia treatment is all about replacing the natural lens with a synthetic lens called an intraocular lens. However, lens implant may cause blurry vision and glare and you might still need glasses post-procedure.
- Corneal inlays: It is a reversible presbyopia treatment that involves inserting a small plastic ring with a central opening into the cornea. It functions as a pinhole camera and allows focused light for clear visual images.
Did your last birthday cake have 40 candles on it? Presbyopia might be on the way to wish you a happy birthday next year. Book your appointment at The Eye Lab to get high-technology enabled eye health checkups and expert eye care tips on presbyopia and other age-related eye conditions.