Presbyopia is a vision disorder that occurs and worsens as people age. Because it is relatively common, it is often referred to as the "aging eye condition." Presbyopia results in the inability to focus up close. This problem has to do with refraction in the eye.

How Does Presbyopia Occur?

Presbyopia happens as people age. The eye's natural lens hardens, and as a result, the eye is not able to focus light directly on to the retina. Aging also affects muscle fibers around the lens, which makes it harder for the eye to focus on up close objects. In essence, the lens becomes ineffective, which causes light to focus behind the retina, causing poor vision for objects that are up close.

In younger people, the lens of the eye is soft and flexible, allowing the tiny muscles inside the eye to easily reshape the lens to focus on close and distant objects.

Who is at Risk for Developing Presbyopia?

Presbyopia (natural loss of near focus) begins between the ages of 38-45 and is experienced by nearly 100% of individuals by the age of 50. Everyone experiences some loss of focusing power for near objects as they age, but some will notice this more than others.

What Are The Signs and Symptoms of Presbyopia?

  • Having difficulty reading small print
  • Needing to hold reading material farther than arm's distance away
  • Problems seeing objects that are close to you
  • Recurring headaches
  • Eye strain

If you experience any of these symptoms, visit an eye care professional for a comprehensive dilated eye examination. If you wear glasses or contact lenses and still have these issues, a new prescription might be needed.

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Can Someone Have Presbyopia and Another Eye Disease at the Same Time?

It is common to have presbyopia and another type of "refractive error" at the same time. There are several other types of refractive errors: nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia) and astigmatism. An individual may have one type of refractive error in one eye and a different type of refractive error in the other. It is also possible for a person to have presbyopia,  as well as another eye condition, such as glaucoma or macular degeneration.

How do Doctors Diagnose Presbyopia?

Presbyopia can be found during a comprehensive dilated eye exam. A complete eye exam lasts around 45 minutes to an hour, and checks for vision problems like presbyopia as well as other age-related eye conditions such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy.

How is Presbyopia Corrected?

Eyeglasses are the simplest and safest means of correcting presbyopia. Eyeglasses for presbyopia have higher focusing power in the lower portion of the lens. This allows you to read through the lower portion of the lens and see properly at distant through the upper portion of the lens. It is also possible to purchase reading eyeglasses. These types of glasses do not require a prescription and can help with reading vision.

The National Eye Institute conducts and supports research, training, health information dissemination, and other programs with respect to blinding eye diseases and visual disorders.