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Why your eyesight changes with age

If you can’t read a menu or the latest page-turner without blurred vision, you may have a very common condition called presbyopia.

Mark Mohney, M.D., an ophthalmologist at Piedmont, says the most common complaint among his patients is eye fatigue at the end of the day after reading or working on a computer.

“Our arms are no longer long enough and we find we’re holding things further and further away,” he explains. “And by gosh, we can’t read the material.”

How the eye changes with age

The eye’s lens changes in power as it loses its shape and becomes stiffer with age.

“The [eye] muscles are pulling against this stiffer lens, which can’t quite change shape as well as it used to,” says Dr. Mohney.

At this point, it is common for people to become symptomatic and experience vision changes.

The easiest way to deal with presbyopia

Presbyopia is fairly easy to treat. But first, the bad news:

“Trying to prevent it isn’t going to happen,” says Dr. Mohney.

The simplest solution is getting what he dubs “cheater readers,” or reading glasses. Both prescription and over-the-counter readers can be effective because they give power back to the eye.

He recommends starting with the lowest strength possible. The downside of using readers is that the eyes learn to rely on the corrective lens, which may cause them to weaken over time.  

“It’s not uncommon that you find a small reader worked early on, but then you’re back at the store buying something stronger and stronger.”

Contact for vision correction

Many people use contact lens to improve up-close vision. Both bifocal and multifocal (monovision) lens are available. Most people wear one lens to improve their reading vision, while the other eye is used for distance vision. 

Surgical options for presbyopia

There are surgical options to correct vision, including:

  • Intraocular lenses
  • Conductive keratoplasty
  • PresbyLASIK
  • Corneal inlays

Eye drops for vision correction?

Less invasive treatment may be on the horizon in the next year or so. Dr. Mohney says researchers are testing an eye drop that would correct presbyopia for up to eight hours at a time.

“That could revolutionize the ease with which we take care of this problem,” he says.

Until then, he says don’t sweat it if your vision isn’t perfect.

“The bottom line: Presbyopia is going to happen to all of us. It’s a normal aging change for the eye and it’s not detrimental to a healthy eye,” he says. “But it’s a huge nuisance. There are lots of good solutions out there and better ones coming in the market hopefully within a year or so.”

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