Presbyopia is part of the natural aging process of the eye, and can be easily corrected. Technically, presbyopia is the loss of the eye's ability to change its focus to see objects that are near. It is not a disease. It's as natural as wrinkles, and it affects everybody at some point in life. Presbyopia generally starts to appear around age 45.
Presbyopia is often confused with farsightedness , but the two are different. Presbyopia occurs when the eye's lens loses flexibility. Farsightedness occurs as a result of the shape of the eyeball, which causes light rays to bend incorrectly once they have entered the eye.
What Are the Symptoms of Presbyopia?
Symptoms of presbyopia include:
- Blurred vision at a normal reading distance
- The need to hold reading material at arm's length
- Headaches from doing close work
How Is Presbyopia Diagnosed?
An eye doctor can diagnose presbyopia by performing a thorough eye exam.
How Is Presbyopia Treated?
Presbyopia cannot be cured. Instead, prescription glasses, contact lens, reading glasses, progressive addition lenses, or bifocals can help correct the effects of presbyopia. Bifocals are often prescribed for presbyopia. Bifocals are eyeglasses that have two different prescriptions in one spectacle lens. The main part of the lens contains a prescription for nearsightedness or farsightedness, while the lower portion of the lens holds a stronger prescription to help a person see objects up-close. Progressive addition lenses are similar to bifocals but have a more gradual transition between the two prescriptions.
Contact lenses used to treat presbyopia include multifocal lenses, which come in soft or gas permeable versions, and monovision lens, in which one eye wears a lens that aids in seeing objects at a distance, while the other has a lens that aids in near vision.
Laser surgery to reverse presbyopia is currently being used in Canada and Mexico. However, it is still being investigated in the U.S., and has not yet been approved by the FDA to treat presbyopia.
The Food and Drug Administration recently approved a surgical procedure called conductive keratoplasty to treat presbyopia. Instead of lasers, conductive keratoplasty uses radio waves. The physician uses a small instrument to apply the radio waves to the eye (usually just one eye) to reshape the cornea and improve the patient's vision of nearby objects.
Talk to your doctor to find out which treatment is best for you.
Reviewed by the doctors at The Cleveland Clinic Cole Eye Institute.
Edited by Charlotte E. Grayson, MD, WebMD, October 2004.