Why your vision worsens with age
If you are over the age of 40 and find yourself squinting to read, you might be one of more than one billion people around the world with an eye condition called presbyopia.
“Congratulations, you’ve reached middle-age,” says Dean Powrie, the director and chief executive of personalEYES clinics in NSW.
“Everybody develops presbyopia, even if you have never needed glasses before,” Powrie says.
Presbyopia is a natural and inevitable consequence of ageing, and it is the most common eye condition in Australia. When we are younger, the soft and flexible lens inside our eyes expands and contracts to allow us see objects at different distances.
“We take that for granted,” says Powrie. “But as we age, the lens stiffens and loses its ability to focus on images up close.”
Symptoms of presbyopia include blurry vision, headaches and eye strain, especially when reading, sewing, using your smartphone or other activities that require precise focus on close objects.
Powrie says presbyopia develops slowly, so people may not notice they have a problem until they are straining to see.
“You might start to hold things farther away from your eyes, or you will start needing more light to see properly,” Powrie says.
Presbyopia is different from farsightedness, which occurs when the eyeball is too short or the shape of either the cornea or the lens is distorted. People can have presbyopia, farsightedness and nearsightedness at the same time.
Powrie says that people who suspect they have presbyopia should see an optometrist for reading glasses or contacts, even if they are tempted to buy ready-made reading glasses from the chemist.
“We always emphasise that people over 40 should see optometrists for yearly eye appointments, even if they don’t feel they need to,” says Powrie. People under 40 can go less frequently — once every two years.
He says optometrists can make the most accurate assessments about your prescription and keep track of your eye health.
“If you don’t have regular eye tests, there could be a major problem that’s being missed,” he says.
“It’s all about prevention, because with many eye problems, you need to try and maintain the vision that you have.”
People with presbyopia can choose to use glasses or contact lenses, but there are also surgical treatments available for those who prefer to avoid glasses and contact lenses for cosmetic or convenience reasons.
“I have many many friends who are presbyopic and they own six pairs of glasses and still can’t find them,” says Powrie. “Sometimes you have to do what’s easier for you.”
PersonalEYES offers a number of procedures to treat presbyopia, including patented inlay technologies, such as Kamra, Presbia and Raindrop, in which a tiny disc is placed under the cornea to reshape the surface of the eye.
Powrie says surgical eye procedures have advanced so much in the last ten years that they are relatively quick and completely pain-free.
“They are definitely walk-in, walk-out procedures,” says Powrie. “There’s no needles or injections, and there’s no significant downtime after treatment.”