Short-sightedness (or presbyopia, by its other name) is remarkably common in the over 40s. Typical first signs include problems reading, watching TV, or eye strain while working at a computer.
Presbyopia is part of the natural aging process and is caused by a hardening of the lens in your eye. In healthy vision, focusing is controlled by a muscle around the outside of the lens exerting pressure to make the lens contract and change your focus. Over time (i.e. through aging), the lens becomes harder, making it impossible for the muscle to exert sufficient pressure to adjust focus.
While the condition isn’t severe in itself, early diagnosis and treatment go a long way to slowing the degradation process of your eyes, and regular eye exams are recommended to pick up any irregularities.
The available treatments for presbyopia
Treatments for presbyopia artificially recreate the eyes’ ability to focus on nearby objects. This can be achieved by several different methods, including corrective eyewear or surgical options. The main treatments are:
The simplest, easiest and most common way of treating presbyopia is through wearing glasses. You may or may not be able to wear non-prescription reading glasses or reading sunglasses, depending on the severity of your short-sightedness, and you should seek the advice of an ophthalmologist for help in making this decision. There are five main types of glasses available:
- Reading glasses (prescription): Reading glasses with prescription lenses are suitable if you have no other eyesight problems. The reading glasses should be removed when not in use.
- Bifocals: Bifocals have two lenses separated by a horizontal line with the near-distance prescription lens below and far-distance lens above.
- Trifocals: Trifocals feature three lenses, again separated into horizontal lines. The top lens is for far distance, the middle for middle distance vision (i.e. working at a computer screen) and the lowest lens is for nearby objects.
- Progressive multifocals: Multifocals are like trifocals without the same horizontal banding. Instead, the varying glass strengths blend into each other with lenses for short-distance, middle-distance and far-distance viewing.
- Office progressives: Office progressives are specific lenses tailored for middle- to near-distance work, typically for working on a computer or reading.
Contact lenses are often preferred by those who don’t want to wear glasses but who still need the artificial effects of lenses. It’s worth noting that contact lenses are not suitable for people who suffer from dry eye, problems with tear ducts or other eyelid related issues. The lens used in contact lenses come in three main types — bifocal, monovision and modified monovision.
Refractive surgery has become more common in recent years, but it is not without risk. During surgery, the patient’s near vision is improved by changing the shape of the cornea. There are multiple potential side-effects from this type of surgery, so you should consult with an ophthalmologist before committing to treatment.
Implants are a far less common way of treating presbyopia. Through surgery, an ophthalmologist will insert a new synthetic lens into each eye. These lenses can sometimes change position or shape (called an accommodative lens) to improve eyesight.
Lens implants do not come without risk and possible side-effects include glare or blurring. Also, lens implants often lead to no significant increase in your near-distance sight. You should seek professional advice before committing to implants.
Another much less common way of treating short-sightedness is through the use of inlays — a small plastic ring with an opening — inserted into the eye. Inlays act in a similar way to a pinhole camera, focusing light and improving vision.