If You’re Over 40, Say Hello to Presbyopia

PresbyopiaSo, you just had your 40th birthday. Hopefully you survived the Depends (or worse) jokes and the black-frosted cake shaped like a tombstone. In reality, though, you’re probably less than halfway through your life.

But there is one eye condition that begins around 40 and will make you feel older. It’s called presbyopia.

What is presbyopia?

You don’t think about them like you do your skin or your joints, but your eyes age, too. Presbyopia is a natural consequence of this. Presbyopia is a condition where the eye loses its ability to change its focus so that you can see objects that are near. In most people, it starts to appear at the age of 40.

When you are young, the lens in your eye is soft and flexible, and it can change shape easily. This is how you focus on objects both up close and far away. After most people turn 40 the lens becomes less flexible, more rigid. It can’t change shape as easily as it did in your younger days, so it becomes much more difficult to see things up close, such as when you’re reading. But you’re in good company — presbyopia affects almost everyone.

Isn’t this just farsightedness?

People confuse presbyopia with farsightedness (hyperopia), but the two are different conditions. When the lens of the eye loses flexibility with age, that is presbyopia. When the natural shape of the eyeball (the eye is either shorter than normal or has a cornea that is too flat) causes light rays to bend incorrectly when they enter the eye, that is hyperopia. The confusion comes because the results are much the same — the person has difficulty seeing things up close without correction — but the causes are very different. Farsightedness can be present at birth, while presbyopia develops after 40. Hyperopia often has genetic tendencies, while presbyopia is common throughout the population.

There is no cure for presbyopia, but it can be easily corrected. Most people simply opt for standard drugstore reading glasses, having a few pairs around the house wherever they may need to do some reading. It can also be treated with laser surgery.

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