As we get older our bodies age, from our skin and joints to organs and muscles, but our eyes age too. When we are young the lenses within the eyes, called the natural crystalline lens, is clear and flexible, and can focus freely from near to far. People of all ages may need the use of glasses to help them see distance or closer, but when we are younger this is usually due to the shape of the eye.
From around the age of 40 the natural crystalline lens starts to get cloudy and more ridged, this means that the lens can not focus as well as it used to. This condition is called presbyopia. Everyone's eyes age at different speeds, but the older we get the more the lenses cloud and become less flexible, and the likelihood of needing help reading or with near vision becomes more interested, and for many older people cataracts start to develop.
When Should You See an Ophthalmologist or Eye Clinic?
While a lot of the population wear glasses from a young age and will regularly see an ophthalmologist or visit an eye clinic, there are signs you can look out for as you get older to indicate that you need to see a specialist for reading or near vision solutions;
- Struggling to read or do other close tasks and finding you are having to move things further away to read or see detail.
- That you start to get a headache when reading or doing close tasks.
- Finding it difficult to read small print in low light.
- Developing achy eyes when reading or doing close tasks.
The above signs could mean that you need to be seen to have a thorough eye exam and discuss reading or near vision solutions.
Reading and Near Vision Solutions
There are a few options you may be able to choose from when it comes to looking at reading and near vision solutions.
- Off the Shelf Reading Glasses – these are reading glasses that you can buy at most supermarkets or pharmacies, and even other shops now too. They are generally inexpensive and may be the first 'quick fix' you buy when first noticing you need help with near vision. Whilst they may be a good option to start with, especially if you are waiting for an appointment to see an eye specialist, they may not fully correct your vision. Off the shelf reading glasses can not correct if you have a different reading prescription in each eye and they also can not correct any astigmatism you may have. While they may be a good interim option, you should make sure you visit an eye clinic for a full eye exam.
- Prescription Reading Glasses – these are glasses that have been custom made by an optician to fit with your reading / near vision prescription. They will consider any differences in eye strength, astigmatism, and will nicely fit your face.
- Bifocal or Trifocal Glasses – these glasses are for people that need glasses for near, intermediate, and distance vision. Some people do not like having to use more than one pair of glasses and having bifocal glasses will correct near vision and distance vision, and trifocal glasses correct near vision, intermediate vision, and distance vision. Both options are completely customized to you and your eyes.
Nowadays a lot of people find glasses inconvenient and find that they do not fit in with their lifestyle, but there is a solution for this, surgical treatment to correct near vision and / or cataracts called refractive lens exchange. This treatment is very similar to cataract surgery, where the natural crystalline lens is removed using phacoemulsification and a new artificial lens is inserted in its place. If you have a cataract this procedure will be called 'cataract surgery', but if you have this treatment purely for vision correction it is referred to as 'refractive lens exchange' and will eliminate the development of cataracts in the future.
There are a few different lens options that can be implanted and the one chosen will be determined by your ophthalmologist taking in to account suitability, lifestyle, and your expectations. All the lens options come in a variety of strengths or can be customized for your eyes and there are also options, called toric lenses, which will, along with the below solutions, will correct any astigmatism you may have.
- Monofocal – a monofocal lens implant is used to correct distance vision only, where after surgery you will still require the use of reading glasses. This is normally used for people that just want to eliminate cataracts and / or are happy to continue using reading glasses.
- Monofocal Monovision – this is where a monofocal lens of different strength is placed in each eye, one eye will be corrected for distance and one eye corrected for reading. While some people really get on with this configuration, others can not tolerate the difference. This option should always be tried with you first using either contact lenses or a demonstration in clinic.
- Trifocal or Extended Range – these lenses can correct near, intermediate, and distance vision and are popular with people that want to have glasses free as much as possible.
All the above options are just an overview and if you are considering any of the options, whether surgical or not, you should attend for a full eye examination with a trusted eye clinic. If you are considering surgical options, obtaining an appointment with a trusted ophthalmologist, who will go through benefits, risks, and alternatives, is advised.