What is presbyopia?
Presbyopia is a condition wherein, as people age, they experience a gradual loss of their eyes’ ability to focus on nearby objects. This usually occurs when a person reaches their mid-40s and can worsen until age 65 if left untreated.
This article focuses on explaining the answers to the six most frequently asked questions about this eye condition.
1. What causes presbyopia?
Two parts of the eyes work together for clear near vision: the cornea and the lenses. The cornea is responsible for forming an image, while the lenses adjust the focus of the light from objects people see.
Upon entering the eye, light passes the cornea and then goes through the pupil. The iris (the ring-like part which gives your eyes color) opens or closes to adjust the amount of light that can enter and reach the lens.
Once light passes through it, the lens will expand or constrict depending on the object’s proximity. If the object is closer, the lenses flex more, and vice versa.
That is, of course, if the lens is in its healthiest state.
People with presbyopia experience symptoms because of the hardening of their lenses due to aging. This means that older people have a hard time looking at nearby objects clearly because their lenses can no longer flex the way they used to.
2. What are the signs of presbyopia?
When you start holding your phone, newspapers, and books at arm’s length to see the text more clearly, you may have developed presbyopia. With this condition, the eye can only process clearer images at a farther distance.
Other symptoms include blurred vision when reading at the standard distance and eye strain and headaches after performing tasks that require focusing on specific objects up close. You may also experience difficulty reading small print and have a higher tendency to squint at what you’re looking at.
If you’re already experiencing these symptoms, expect them to become worse with dim lighting or when your eyes are tired.
Undergoing a basic eye exam can help confirm if you have presbyopia.
3. Is presbyopia the same as farsightedness (hyperopia)?
No, although the symptoms are quite similar.
Both conditions result in clear images for distant objects, which become blurry the closer the objects are. The key difference between them is the reason why it happens in the first place.
With hyperopia, the cause is primarily the malformations in the eyes – either the cornea is too flat, or the eyes are shorter than normal. If this is the case, the light rays focus behind the retina, creating the same farsighted effect as presbyopia.
But unlike presbyopia, hyperopia is a refractive error that is already present at birth. This means that it is possible to have hyperopia and develop presbyopia as you grow older.
4. Can you wear contacts with presbyopia?
The short answer is “yes.” But take note that you can’t wear just any type of contact lens.
Regular contact lenses are made to suit most individuals’ lifestyle demands. However, you may need to change the lens type you’re using if you have certain conditions, like presbyopia.
If you’ve been using monthly clear prescription contact lenses, your eye doctor might recommend switching. This is because your eyes now have different requirements, depending on the viewing distance.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should go back to wearing glasses. Several multifocal contact lenses are now available to eliminate the need to wear reading glasses while your contacts are on.
In short, multifocal lenses offer the best of both worlds – clear near vision as well as clear distance vision.
5. How long does it take to adjust to multifocal contacts?
When you wear multifocal contact lenses for the first time, you may see shadows or even 3D images up close. Plus, the sharpness of your distance vision may not be as crisp as you would have preferred – it could feel much like looking through a screen door.
But fret not, because this isn’t permanent.
Although it may take time, your eyes will adjust to your new lenses. For some people, the adjustment is immediate. For others, it may take anywhere between four to six weeks. This varies from one person to another.
Your eye doctor will most likely schedule you for a follow-up appointment one week after the first fitting of your lenses and make the necessary adjustments as you go along.
6. How do you overcome presbyopia?
Aside from wearing multifocal contact lenses for presbyopia, the condition can also be treated by several surgical procedures. This includes:
Monovision LASIK can help reduce the need for reading glasses by surgically correcting the distance vision for one eye, which is usually the dominant one. Then, the surgeon will intentionally make the non-dominant eye mildly nearsighted.
In other words, this procedure makes it so that the dominant and non-dominant eye offers clearer distance and near vision, respectively.
Kamra Corneal Inlay
The Kamra corneal inlay procedure helps reduce – if not eliminate – the need for reading glasses in adults aged 45 to 60, specifically those with good distance vision but have developed presbyopia.
This procedure entails surgically implanting a very thin, tiny (around 3.8 millimeters and 6 microns thick) and opaque inlay. The goal is to create an opening similar to the pinhole camera effect to expand the person’s natural range of vision.
Results include sharper near vision without changing the clarity for distance eyesight.
Monovision Conductive Keratoplasty
Monovision conductive keratoplasty (MCK) is a minimally invasive procedure that shrinks collagen fibers in the cornea to provide more focusing power for near vision. It uses low-level radiofrequency to steepen the central cornea to elongate too-short eyeballs effectively.
This procedure only lasts around three minutes and results in significant improvement in reading vision. However, the final level of vision correction may take a few weeks to become apparent.
Refractive Lens Exchange
As the name suggests, the refractive lens exchange entails removing the natural lenses of the eyes, replacing these with artificial intraocular lenses to enhance vision.
This procedure is quite similar to cataract removal, except that the lens being removed hasn’t become cloudy due to cataract formation.
RLE can also be used with monovision correction for better results.
Enjoy Life Up Close
Reading, watching television, crafting, and other tasks that require close-up focus may be difficult to perform with presbyopia, but don’t let the condition prevent you from enjoying life up close. Learn about the condition and find ways to overcome it.