Just Had Your 40th Birthday? Say Hello to More Than the Tombstone Cake

Middle woman reading a newspaper afarOK, so you just had your 40th birthday, complete with the black clothes worn by “mourning” party attendees, witty cards about Depends, and all of that.

But there was one guest who was definitely on the list who you may not know — presbyopia.

Presbyopia is just one of those things that happens as we age. It’s the reason you’ll find reading glasses strategically placed throughout the houses of people over 50. Here’s more about what to expect.

What is presbyopia?

Just like everything else on your body, your eyes age. Presbyopia is a natural consequence of this. Presbyopia is the loss of the eye’s ability to change its focus in order to see objects that are near. It is not a disease, but a condition. It generally starts to appear at the age of 40 in most people.

In your younger days, the lens in your eye is soft and flexible. Because of this it changes shape easily, which is how you focus on objects both up close and far away. After most people turn 40 the lens becomes less flexible, more rigid. It can’t change shape as easily as it did in your younger days, so it becomes much more difficult to see things at close range, such as when reading. You’re not alone in this — almost everyone develops presbyopia.

Isn’t this just farsightedness? Nope.

People often assume presbyopia is just farsightedness (hyperopia), but the two are different conditions. When the lens of the eye loses flexibility with age, that is presbyopia. When the natural shape of the eyeball (the eye is shorter than normal or has a cornea that is too flat) causes light rays to bend incorrectly once they enter the eye, that is hyperopia. While the causes are different, the results are much the same — the person has difficulty seeing things up close without correction. But farsightedness can be present at birth, while presbyopia develops after 40. Hyperopia often has genetic tendencies, while presbyopia is common throughout the population.

Presbyopia cannot be cured, but it can be easily corrected. Most people simply opt for standard drugstore reading glasses, having a few pairs around the house wherever they may need to do some reading. It can also be treated with surgery, although most people don’t see the need. For cataract patients, however, new intraocular lens choices do correct for presbyopia in addition to providing excellent vision at variable distances.

If you just turned 40 or are starting to see the signs of presbyopia, at Wilkinson Eye Center we can give you advice on the best readers to get and answer other questions. Give us a call at (248) 334-4931 to make an appointment.

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