Presbyopia and Bifocals

Presbyopia is a condition that affects the eyesight of nearly 4 million Americans each year. Presbyopia occurs gradually over time, and most aging adults will need a bifocal to aid them in correcting this condition. There is no way to prevent the condition-it is simply a natural part of aging and does not cause blindness.

What is Presbyopia?

Presbyopia is a condition that occurs due to the loss of elasticity in the lens of the eye. This elasticity allows the lens to change shape to focus on objects close by, and it gradually declines as we age. Many middle-aged adults experience Presbyopia (usually between the ages of 36 and 50). Adults who are farsighted and those with diabetes may notice these changes in vision sooner. They may need to hold books farther away or remove their reading glasses (if they are nearsighted) to be able to read fine print. Performing tasks that require detailed, close-up work like sewing may become very difficult. The eyes may also have difficulty transitioning from objects close to the eye to objects in the distance (vision may remain blurry for a few moments when transitioning).

How Is Presbyopia Diagnosed? 

Diagnosis of presbyopia often can be done with a simple vision test. Doctors may have the patient use a reading card with numbers and letters held at various distances to determine how the condition can be corrected. They may also examine the retina, test muscle integrity, and use a refraction test.

Corrective Measures

Presbyopia does not always require correction immediately when a person notices the changes. Sometimes a simple addition of light when reading or performing tasks can help, and some nearsighted people might only need to remove their glasses when necessary. For those who do require correction, bifocals are usually a successful option.

Bifocals include two different lenses in one pair of glasses. The top and bottom of the lenses have different strengths, making them ideal for correcting Presbyopia. The top portion of the lens usually helps with distance focus, while the bottom helps focus on closer objects. Some people have difficulty adjusting to the unique lenses of bifocals, images can appear to “jump” when transitioning from close to distant focus, and slight changes in depth perception might be noticeable when looking through the bottom lens. Although it may feel strange initially, the wearer will become accustomed to automatically looking through the proper part of the lens when necessary.

Advances in bifocal lenses can help new wearers better adjust to these differences. Some styles of bifocals help reduce the “jump” that people experience when transitioning from one lens to the other, and there are also cosmetic advances for those concerned with the appearance of bifocals. Bifocal lenses without a visible line are available, and are referred to as “blended” or “seamless” bifocals. Although this type of bifocal might be preferred for cosmetic reasons, the wearer might experience blurriness in the spot where the lenses are blended. Bifocal contact lenses are also available, although not recommended for most patients because of difficulties with both near and distant vision fluctuations. If someone is insistent on bifocal contact lenses, the rigid gas-permeable (hard) options are preferred over the hydrogel (soft) options.

Presbyopia is a natural condition that most adults will experience as they age. Although it is not a life-threatening condition, it should not be ignored. proper steps should be taken to correct the vision of those affected. If proper steps are not taken to correct Presbyopia, gradually declining vision could become dangerous in certain situations such as driving, cooking, and working with tools. Please feel free to contact us to learn more about corrective options for Presbyopia.

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