Unfortunately, as we age, our ability to focus at near distances decreases. This condition is known as presbyopia (literally translated as trying to see as old men do). It is inevitable, normal part of the aging process, and, although it may be hard to accept, it is something that you can be aware of and can prepare for. Although frustrating, presbyopia is benign, and readily treatable with the use of reading glasses.
What is Presbyopia?
Presbyopia occurs because the eye, in particular the lens, loses its ability to accommodate, or focus on near objects, as it ages. The lens becomes progressively harder throughout life and somewhere around age 40 the eye muscles that focus on near objects simply aren’t strong enough to cause the lens to focus on near objects.
Fortunately, other than the psychological consequences of getting older, this inability to focus on near objects does not have any medical implications. You will simply need to buy and use reading glasses to see up close. Another alternative is to use different contacts in each eye. This technique is call “monovision” and is actually very common. People will have one contact for near vision/reading and one contact for normal everyday activities, like driving. These individuals simply get used to focusing with different eyes for different tasks.
Additional Eye Diseases
In addition to presbyopia, the incidence of visually significant eye diseases rises dramatically with age. The most common age-related conditions responsible for visual loss are macular degeneration, glaucoma, and cataract. Knowing the normal signs of decreased vision with aging will help you know when to act if vision loss from a more dangerous, potentially vision-threatening cause occurs. (See the links below for more information and symptoms for these more serious vision problems.
What Can I Do To Protect My Vision?
Wearing sunglasses and a hat with a brim to block ultraviolet sunlight may help to delay cataracts. If you smoke, stop. Researchers also believe good nutrition can help reduce the risk of age-related cataracts. They recommend eating green leafy vegetables, fruit, and other foods with antioxidants.
If you are age 60 or older, you should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once every two years. In addition to cataracts, your eye care professional can check for signs of age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and other vision disorders. Early treatment for many eye diseases may save your sight.