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Presbyopia: The 40-something Eyesight Challenge

Many a 40-something guy or gal has experienced that seemingly sudden shortening of the arms. No, the arms don’t actually shrink, but somehow they don’t seem long enough to get that newspaper or book far enough away to read. That’s how the actual condition of age-related farsightedness (where you can’t see very well close-up), or presbyopia, also got the nickname “long-arm sight.” Or maybe you’ve heard it referred to as TMB syndrome – too many birthdays.

Okay, so maybe if you’re in that 40-something group, none of this is humorous at all. Another sign of aging never is! If you’ve gone your whole life without needing glasses, the news that you do can be especially surprising and a bit shocking.

But it’s a completely normal part of aging. Dennis Wilcoxon, O.D., of St. Petersburg, Florida, explains more.

“The term presbyopia comes from a Greek word meaning ‘old eye,’ and it describes a predictable process in which the lens of the eye gradually becomes rigid and inflexible over time,” says Dr. Wilcoxon. “For most people, the process becomes noticeable somewhere between 38 and 42 years of age. At that point, the muscles that control the focusing of the lens aren’t able to control it as effectively, and we begin losing our ability to focus on nearby objects, such as the daily newspaper.”

While prevention is the order of the day in healthcare, it won’t help with this aging process. But correction is usually easy – if a little damaging to the ego. For people who have existing vision correction needs, the most common treatment calls for bifocal or progressive glasses or contacts. For newbies to the vision correction world, reading glasses may be the ticket.

It’s not hard to figure out if you might be developing presbyopia. “The symptoms are pretty easy to identify,” says Dr. Wilcoxon. “One common symptom is the gradual realization that you have to hold reading materials farther away from your eyes than you used to. Another sign is eyestrain when you’re doing close-up work, or the need for more light in order to read.” 

The doctor continues, “This is a progressive condition, which means that it will gradually worsen over time.  But patients can rest assured that its effects are easily treatable. During regular annual checkups, your eyecare doctor can accurately measure your near vision and prescribe glasses or contacts that will compensate for the loss of focusing ability.”

So, don’t let presbyopia cause added distress as you age.  It’s only natural!

Source: VSP