“on the back of some jars and some packaging – I was just struggling a little bit with the smaller print…” Sara Cox noticed this first – does it sound familiar?
Presbyopia affects our eyes' ability to focus easily on nearer tasks – whether that’s threading a needle or reading a text message. It’s a very gradual process and starts with difficulty seeing things a couple of inches away like most children can, and as it progresses, we have to hold things further away to keep them clear. This happens because the lens inside the eye progressively loses some flexibility, which is called Presbyopia. Whilst this sounds like an exotic rare condition, you are not alone and it is frustratingly normal.
Focusing difficulties at other distances as well, such as driving, television or with computer use, may indicate a different type of prescription need such as Myopia, Hyperopia or Astigmatism. Your eye care practitioner will be able to advise you if this is the case.
How does the eye work?
In order for us to ‘see’ things, a clear image must land on the back of the eye. Light travels through the cornea (the clear dome-like structure at the front), through the pupil (the black part in the coloured area of the eye), through the lens (inside the eye) and onto the retina (the light sensitive area at the back). Whatever we are directly looking on, focuses on a highly sensitive area of the retina called the macula – this is where we see the most detail. Our ‘peripheral vision’ lands on the areas outside of the macula.
The need for contact lenses or spectacles for many people is due to the light from an image not focusing exactly on the retina.
The prescription, or power, within the contact lenses, or spectacles, helps adjust the path of the light to focus it on the retina and ensure that the image is seen clearly. Patients can be Myopic (short sighted) or Hyperopic (long sighted). Inside the eye, the lens needs to change shape to maintain a clear image when we change to focus from distance to near or vice versa. In the eye we call this process accommodation and it happens automatically. Over time, the lens inside the eye thickens, gets bigger and loses its flexibility all of these reduce its ability to alter its power and allow us to focus clearly at different distances. It’s a gradual process and we rarely notice when we can’t focus on something right in front of our nose anymore. We tend to notice the issue when we can’t focus clearly at our ‘normal’ reading distance. This change in lens flexibility is called Presbyopia.
When you first notice the symptoms of Presbyopia will vary depending on the tasks you do, the level of lighting or even the length of your arms! As a general rule though, noticeable lens changes can start in the early forties – certainly not when you get ‘old’. When Presbyopia symptoms start, you may find you need contact lenses or spectacles.
Presbyopia Signs and Symptoms
Presbyopia happens - in fact, it is one of the most normal things that can happen to an eye and it will happen to almost all of us.
Do you find it more difficult to read comfortably when the light isn’t so bright? Is it easy to see that menu in a restaurant? How do you feel about your vision when you are tired? Are you finding that you hold things a little further away than you used to? Are your arms not long enough anymore? Have you opted for a larger font size on your phone? Any of these things may indicate Presbyopia.
The Solution - Presbyopia Correction
The solution, or solutions, depend very much on you! We generally don’t have one pair of shoes for every situation and the same applies to vision correction. Your Practitioner can consider your lifestyle requirements, hobbies or working environment and recommend the options that best suit you. Contact lenses may provide you with the freedom to see clearly at all distances, without you having to worry about looking for your reading glasses.
As Sara says, “I thought I might have to get a small pair of spectacles, perhaps on a pearl chain around my neck - that wasn't necessarily the look I was going for” and is most definitely NOT your only option!
Top Tips from Our Eye Care Practitioner
- Everyone is different, their eyes, their prescription and their needs, thankfully we have many options available to us to help you see.
- Clinically, we will always have a really good look at the health of your eye and use this in conjunction with your needs and requirements to recommend and discuss the best options available.
- Sometimes small changes can make big differences, so if you have been unsuccessful with the first option, its vital that you discuss this with your contact lens fitter as there is likely to be an alternative option available.
- Like most technology, contact lenses have come a long way and we are lucky to have amazing products to fit you with.
Sara said, in her experience: “You don’t really know that they’re in, you just feel like you have your old eyesight back.”
As Practitioners, we hear this regularly- Let us try and help you too!
If you’d like to see and learn more, then have a look at this link to watch a complete contact lenses fitting journey.