Do I Need Reading Glasses?
Have you surpassed age 40 and now having more trouble reading up close? You are not the only one. The inevitable need for reading glasses is a common tale that may have been told to you by your parents, grandparents, or coworkers. You may have even observed their dozens of reading glasses sporadically placed around the house, car, garage, or workplace. Why is it that with age, we start having difficulties seeing up close and the print has to be moved further away from us to be seen clearly? Is there anything we can do to prevent it?
What is Happening? Why Do I Need Reading Glasses?
The eye is a complex organ in the body. Our ability to see clearly depends on the structures within the eye that bend light to perfectly focus it on the back of the eye, the retina, which ultimately transfers the signals up to the brain. The lens in the eye is a key component of this process and is capable of changing shape for the purpose of reading up close or seeing distant objects.
When looking at objects in the distance, the lens needs to have more of an oval / saucer shape, similar to pushing down on a balloon, elongating it and making it thinner. During the process of reading up close, the lens needs to change into a more spherical shape, similar to a normal balloon.
The more spherical shape allows light from nearby objects to be bent more, thus focusing the image on the retina. This change in shape is accomplished with the help of small muscles around the lens that contract to help the lens bulge. With age, similar to other muscles or tissue in the body, the small muscles lose their strength and the lens also loses its flexibility in changing shape.
This prevents the eye from focusing images up close and thus an individual will be more reliant on reading glasses or holding an object further away, when the lens is in the usual saucer shape. The reader may also experience discomfort with brief periods of near work and / or blur when looking in the distance after prolonged near work.
What Can I Do to Prevent Presbyopia?
At the moment, there isn’t a way to stop this process from occurring. It is a change that optometrists expect to see and will occur in everyone.
There is a population of people with low myopic (nearsighted) prescriptions (i.e. around -2.00 D) that may not need reading glasses, as their sweet spot of vision is right at that reading distance. However, for the rest of us, this is an inevitable change. Luckily, there are a variety of tools out there to aid you with this change.
Reading glasses are an option. These can include single vision reading glasses or progressive / bifocal / trifocal lenses. There are also contact lens options that allow for distance and near viewing. Magnifying glasses, digital magnifiers or larger text are other great options for maintaining visual function with these anatomical changes.
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