Eventually, nearly everyone loses some of their ability to focus on near objects and fine details. When this happens, it’s called presbyopia.
Presbyopia is why most people eventually develop the need for reading glasses or bifocals. Presbyopia is often confused with farsightedness because the two conditions share the inability to clearly focus on near objects. But they are not the same.
Presbyopia (sometimes called age-related focus dysfunction) commonly occurs in a person’s mid-40s, when the lens thickens and hardens as part of the natural aging process. The muscles of the eye can no longer change the shape of the lens to focus on near objects. (Farsightedness, on the other hand, is caused by flatness of the cornea or by the shape of the eye itself.)
Most people who develop presbyopia wear reading glasses, bifocals or multifocal contact lenses to read or see other close objects clearly, but glasses and contact lenses are not always an ideal solution.
Patients with presbyopia often say:
Advanced techniques make it easier than ever to correct presbyopia permanently-often reducing or completely eliminating the need for glasses or contacts, including reading glasses. There are two major types of presbyopia-correcting surgery. Your specific medical needs and personal preferences will determine which is right for you:
Monovision or Presbyopia Laser Vision Correction corrects one eye to focus on far objects, while the other is corrected to focus on near objects. Your brain learns to coordinate between the two images, so you have both far and near vision. If you also have other refractive errors (like nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism), they can be addressed at the same time.
Presbyopia Lens Replacement Surgery replaces the natural lens in your eye with an advanced artificial lens, called an intraocular lens or IOL. It corrects presbyopia and cataracts at the same time, so you won’t have to have another surgery later in life. You can usually also correct nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism at the same time, as well, so that you will have excellent vision at all distances-even without glasses or contacts.
Here are a few special guidelines for choosing a presbyopia treatment:
Talk with your eye doctor about which procedure is right for you.
When light enters your eye, the cornea and the lens work together to focus light on the retina at the back of your eye. When the lens is relaxed, it is the right shape to focus light from distant objects. For close-up objects, the muscles of the eye push on the lens to change its shape to focus light for near distances-this process is called accommodation, and it happens naturally, without you even noticing.
Over time, the lens thickens and loses some of the flexibility needed for accommodation, making it much harder to clearly focus on close objects.
Presbyopia affects almost everyone, even if they are already nearsighted, farsighted or astigmatic. Presbyopia usually precedes the development of cataracts. With modern presbyopia treatments, all of these conditions can often be treated in one procedure.
Not sure what a particular term means? Click on words in bold to pull up the glossary tab.
The ability of the eye's natural lens to change shape so it can focus on objects at various distances.
Common vision problem and type of refractive error. Caused by either irregularity in the curvature of the cornea or the lens of the eye. People with astigmatism generally have difficulty seeing fine details at all distances. Treated with corrective lenses, laser vision correction or toric IOLs.
Clouding of the eye's lens that blocks passage of light to the retina, resulting in impaired vision. Often a result of normal aging, cataracts form when protein clumps cloud areas of the eye's lens. As the cataract progresses, vision worsens and often requires surgical replacement of the damaged lens with an artificial one.
Clear, curved surface at the front of the eye through which light enters the eye. Along with the sclera (the white part of the eye), provides external protection for the eye. Often called the window of the eye. During many types of vision correction surgery, such as LASIK, the cornea is reshaped to reduce or eliminate the main types of refractive error - nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism.
Farsighted, farsightedness (or hyperopia)
Common vision problem and type of refractive error. Caused by too little curvature of the cornea or too little distance between the front of the eye and the retina at the back. Both structural defects cause light entering the eye to focus incorrectly on the retina, resulting in blurred close-up vision. Treated with corrective lenses, laser vision correction or multifocal or accommodative IOLs.
Intraocular lens (IOL)
Artificial lens made of plastic, silicone or acrylic. Designed to be implanted in the eye in place of or in front of the natural lens to improve focus and correct vision problems, such as cataracts and presbyopia.
The transparent disc behind the pupil that brings light into focus on the retina. As the eye ages, the lens often becomes cloudy and is called a cataract.
Nearsighted, nearsightedness (or myopia)
Common vision problem and type of refractive error. Caused by either too much curvature of the cornea or too much distance between the front of the eye and the retina at the back. Both structural defects cause light entering the eye to focus incorrectly on the retina, resulting in blurred distance vision. Treated with corrective lenses, laser vision correction or multifocal or accommodative IOLs.
Transmitter at the back of the eye that contains blood vessels and nerves and sends images to your brain through the optic nerves.