Children's Health and Wellness

Aging Eyes and Glasses

As your eyes age, their lenses become less flexible. They slowly lose their ability to focus on nearby objects. It's an ongoing, lifelong process called presbyopia. You begin to notice this between ages 40 and 45, when the condition starts to affect close-up tasks like reading. It calls for some attitude adjustment, especially if have to start wearing glasses for the first time. Presbyopia affects almost everyone over the age of 50.

Until now, you could choose your own working distance. You could hold things wherever you wanted, and your eyes would adjust. But eyeglass lenses can't copy what the eyes actually do. Glasses can help you focus, but they don't have the depth of focus your eye muscles give you.

So, even with glasses, you may still have to adjust to make up for vision changes. That may mean holding reading material at a certain distance, raising or lowering your eyes, or moving your computer.

Lenses can help

Fortunately, there are corrective lenses that can make those adjustments less complicated. Lightweight lenses put the correction in your glasses exactly where you need it for your comfort.

Single-power lenses correct for only one visual problem like nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism. Glasses worn only for reading are an example of single-power lenses. People with more than one vision problem need multifocal lenses.

The most common solution for reading glasses is the bifocal. This is a lens with two different prescriptions. The lower half is your reading prescription. The upper half is your prescription for distance vision.

Trifocals have distance correction on top, reading correction on the bottom, and a band of "intermediate vision" in the middle, for seeing things at arm's length or computer distance.

Progressive lenses are similar to bifocals and trifocals but have no lines and have several focal points between near and far that allow you to see all distances. 

A choice that is becoming popular is to wear lenses that are made for certain tasks. You keep them at your desk and wear them only for working on your computer. Many people don't like to have to change glasses if they're up and down from their desks a lot, but it's a positive solution for some people.

Other ideas

Here's how you can improve your vision adjustment:

  • Get a complete eye exam in which your eyes are dilated. Although it is likely that you are experiencing presbyopia, you should get a complete eye exam whenever you notice changes in vision. These exams help to screen for eye diseases, like cataracts, macular degeneration, and glaucoma, which all increasingly occur with age. 

  • Use more light than you usually do when you read.

  • Keep your glasses clean.

  • Have your glasses adjusted if they are slipping down your nose or are otherwise uncomfortable. It sometimes takes 4 to 6 hours of nonstop wearing for pressure points to happen that you may not notice during a normal fitting.

  • You should find another healthcare provider if yours doesn't offer periodic adjustments or ask lots of questions about your lifestyle and interests when examining you.


Online Source: Facts About Refractive Errors, National Eye Institute
Online Source: Older Adults Combined Older Adults, National Eye Institute
Author: Thomas, Chris
Online Editor: Geller, Arlene
Online Medical Reviewer: Subramanian, Manju L., MD
Date Last Reviewed: 9/3/2015
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