Presbyopia is a progressive refractive error of the eye, gradually increasing in severity over time. Almost all people will eventually experience some degree of presbyopia, as the condition is marked primarily by aging.
Presbyopia develops throughout your life, though its symptoms tend to become markedly more noticeable age 40 and older.
The exact cause of presbyopia is not completely understood at this time. However, evidence suggests that the lens in our eyes loses flexibility and becomes more rigid as we age. This makes it difficult to focus, as our focusing muscles can only exert so much force on the lens.
When we are young the lens is more flexible and less rigid. Focusing on objects both near and far is much easier due to the flexibility of the lens. Even if we have some type of minor refractive issue (such as astigmatism or myopia), we can often compensate for the issue by using our focusing muscles to slightly reshape the lens in order to bring images into focus.
With presbyopia, the gradual thickening of the lens, combined with a loss in flexibility, makes compensating for the refractive error more challenging.
Presbyopia is a gradual refractive issue. You aren’t going to wake up one day partially blind; the changes occur slowly, over the span of months and years. Reading becomes more difficult, as does focusing on nearby objects and working at a computer.
Presbyopia cannot be “cured” due to the way it progresses: the aging of the eye’s lens and surrounding focusing muscles means that it will always progress.
However, there are numerous ways to treat and manage presbyopia effectively. It’s important to note that due to presbyopia’s progression that you will need to check in with your Optometrist regularly to ensure that your management plan is still doing its job.
The most common correction for presbyopia is eyeglasses. Bifocal or progressive lenses are the most popular lens used to manage presbyopia. Many people use reading glasses as opposed to wearing a pair of glasses all day. Reading glasses will magnify the image, making it easier to read without having to strain to focus.
Contact lenses are also commonly used as a way to manage the developing symptoms of presbyopia. Like eyeglasses, contact lenses do not cure presbyopia- they simply correct the refractive error, enabling you to see clearer and with less effort.
There are numerous surgical options for treating presbyopia undergoing clinical trials. These surgeries include laser refractive surgery as well as replacement of the inflexible lens with an artificial intraocular lens.
While some surgical options are now available, and others nearing the final stages of FDA certification, surgical treatment of presbyopia is generally not recommended at this time. Most surgical options are not permanent, meaning that they may need to be redone in the future.