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Presbyopia

Alternate Names

  • loss of accommodation of the lens of the eye
  • Normal eye

Definition

Presbyopia is an eye condition in which the lens loses the ability to focus over time. It then becomes difficult to see small objects, especially close up.

What is going on in the body?

Accommodation is the ability of the lens in the eye to adjust itself for focusing close up. The lens changes from a flat, thin state to a thicker, more curved state to allow a person to see a distant object versus a closer one. In individuals with presbyopia, the lens becomes less flexible with age. Presbyopia is a natural part of the aging process.

Risks

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

Presbyopia usually begins in people starting at about age 45. Normal aging causes changes in the eye that lead to problems with focusing. Only in rare cases is this condition related to other factors. Trauma and certain diseases, especially a contagious disease called diphtheria, may weaken the muscles in the eye.

Prevention

What can be done to prevent the condition?

Presbyopia that is due to natural aging cannot be prevented. The DTaP and Tdap immunizations that are given as part of the normal immunization schedule protect against diphtheria. Wearing a seat belt in motor vehicles can prevent some eye trauma.

Diagnosed

How is the condition diagnosed?

This condition is suspected when a person begins having trouble with near vision after the age of 45. A healthcare professional can confirm the diagnosis during an eye exam.

Long Term Effects

What are the long-term effects of the condition?

Around the age of 45, most people find that they may need glasses for distance or near vision. Often people in this age group will need separate glasses for distance and near vision.

Treatments

What are the treatments for the condition?

Glasses, either reading glasses or bifocals, are the usual treatment for presbyopia. Today many people choose multifocal lenses, which work well. Since more than one lens prescription is usually needed for clear vision, simple contact lenses do not generally work for this condition.
Bifocal contacts work well for some people, as does the wearing of a contact in one eye for near vision and a contact in the other eye for far vision. This is known as "mono vision". The brain can switch between images, though imperfectly, and give satisfactory enough results to please many people.

Monitor

How is the condition monitored?

Presbyopia is monitored with regular eye examinations. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.

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