The focusing system of the eye, which includes the crystalline lens located behind the iris, is responsible for bringing objects into focus. In youth, the eye’s focusing system is easily able to switch from viewing things at a distance to focusing on objects up-close. This is in part due to the flexibility of the crystalline lens. As the optical system of the eye ages, the lens becomes more rigid, and the focusing system loses effectiveness. This process is referred to as presbyopia. Presbyopia is a normal aging process that usually begins in a person’s 40’s; it is a common, painless progression that has no implications to the overall health of the eye.
Presbyopia often tends to “sneaks up on people”. The loss of focusing ability may begin with having to hold objects slightly further away in order to read them, or it may require taking off glasses in order to see clearly up-close. As presbyopia progresses with age, it typically requires correction with glasses. Single vision reading glasses can often be used for reading tasks if there are no other vision problems. If glasses are already worn, a special lens designs such as a bifocal or progressive lens can be used to correct both for distance and near vision. Contact lenses have also come a long way since “hard lenses” and now come in many different forms, including bifocal lenses for distance and near vision.
Presbyopia can be a frustrating process; it is irreversible and is oftentimes thought of as an unwanted sign of aging. It may be a source of embarrassment or stress at the time of onset. It is important to remember that presbyopia is a completely normal aging process that everyone will experience to some degree. Because there are a variety of different management options that effectively restore up-close vision, the condition is not something to cause concern.