“Old Eyes” – Myth or Truth?

October 01, 2019

Ask anyone over forty and they’ll tell you...they aren’t a myth. Forty seems to be the average age for people to develop a common medical condition called presbyopia, a word from the Greek that literally means “old eyes”. Most people in this age group have experienced at least some of the symptoms of presbyopia; it is an inevitable part of the aging process. 

Why is forty the magic number for most people? What causes presbyopia, and why does it happen when it does? 

To form an image for the brain to interpret, the lens and the cornea bend (refract) the light entering your eye to focus the image on the retina, located on the inside back wall of your eye. The closer the object is to the eye, the more the flexible lenses of your eyes need to bend and move. A circular muscle surrounding each lens tenses and relaxes, changing the shape of the lens. When you look off into the distance, the lens relaxes. As you focus on something close to you, the muscle tightens, forcing the lens to curve. This changes the eye’s ability to see nearby objects clearly. As we age, the lenses in our eyes tend to harden and become less flexible. The hardened lenses make it much harder to see things that are close to us, causing blurry vision. By our forties, most adults have lost a noticeable amount of lens flexibility. 

While all people will eventually develop presbyopia as they age, there are some risk factors that can cause it to happen more quickly. Diabetes, anemia, multiple sclerosis and certain cardiovascular diseases can promote premature presbyopia, and people who are farsighted tend to develop the condition more quickly. Certain drugs, such as antidepressants, diuretics and antihistamines, can also accelerate the process. 

Many people approaching middle age are reluctant to accept the fact that they’re getting older, and admitting that they have issues when it comes to seeing clearly can be difficult. Presbyopia develops gradually, so it may take you a while to realize that you’re holding books and newspapers farther away from your eyes as you read, or suffering more headaches while reading or doing close work such as sewing. Your eyes will tire easily in dim light, or if you’re using computers or other devices with lighted screens for an extended period of time. If you haven’t noticed any of these symptoms by the time you turn forty, getting a baseline vision test is critical. Your optometrist can detect any signs of presbyopia during your vision exam that you may not have noticed. Treating these symptoms as quickly as possible will improve your vision, increase your comfort and ease the frustration of blurry vision. 

If you don’t wear prescription lenses and are only showing the beginning signs of presbyopia, you may want to purchase non-prescription glasses, or “readers”, to help you see clearly. Only your eye doctor can determine if this is an option for you; they don’t provide adequate treatment for everyone. If you’re already wearing prescription lenses, you’ll need to correct your presbyopia along with any existing issues. Most patients will want to explore their options when it comes to the wide range of lenses available, including prescription reading glasses, bifocals, trifocals, progressive lenses and computer glasses. Presbyopia can be a great reason to treat yourself to a pair of ultra-stylish designer frames! Contact lens wearers may be able to ease into bifocal contact lenses or monovision correction packages. Your eye doctor will also tell you if surgical treatments might be available. 

If you’re nearing forty or experiencing some of the symptoms of presbyopia, call 713-360-7095 for an appointment today. Trust the Tanglewood/Galleria Area presbyopia experts at Pro-Optix Eye Care – where “old eyes” become healthy eyes! 

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