How does our vision change as we age?

Do you find yourself struggling to read the small print? Or enlarging the text on your phone so you can read a message? If you have, then it’s highly likely you have age-related loss of reading vision – or presbyopia as it’s referred to by the pros! In this blog we’ve teamed up with our very own pro, consultant ophthalmic surgeon Mr Amir Hamid, to find out more about presbyopia and explore current vision correction solutions.

Presbyopia can make it difficult to see your phone screen

What is presbyopia?

Presbyopia is a natural process which affects our eyes. Beginning in our forties, the lens in our eye thickens and loses its flexibility. This results in an inability to focus at near. In everyday life this affects our ability to read and see at near, especially in low light. Therefore, even if you can see up close, early presbyopia can cause eye strain and headaches with prolonged near work. Eventually presbyopia will affect us all – even if we’ve never had eye problems before. The good news is that it is easily diagnosed through a routine eye examination and there are now many options available to help.

Will the deterioration in my vision ever stop or can I slow it down?

Unfortunately not. Presbyopia gradually progresses and is irreversible. The changes in our vision will continue and so it is normal to find ourselves more dependent on vision correction, such as spectacles or contact lenses. It is a common misconception that increased screen use and using spectacles more, will make your vision worse. However, these changes are natural so you shouldn’t worry about ceasing activities that you enjoy, for fear of overworking the eyes.

How can I manage my changing vision?

Spectacles are the most common solution for most of us. A pair of reading glasses or progressive lenses can help us focus at near and read more easily. Progressive lenses are a specialist lens which allow clear distance vision as well as near vision. Alternatively, contact lenses are increasing in popularity and are now widely available to allow us some freedom from spectacles. Specialist contact lenses called multifocal, allow us the ability to focus at near whilst still maintaining clear distance vision.

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What are the long-term solutions for presbyopia?

Spectacles or contact lenses may not always be the most convenient or practical choice for us. However, Medstars’ consultant ophthalmic surgeon, Mr Amir Hamid, explains there are two long-term solutions for presbyopia.

1) Laser Blended Vision is a sophisticated form of LASIK laser eye treatment used to treat presbyopia. It can also at the same time, remove the need for distance glasses or contact lenses. It is a safe and effective 10 minute, pain free procedure, with a rapid visual recovery. The dominant eye is treated so that it has excellent distance vision and the non dominant eye is treated so that it has excellent near vision. The use of Wavefront Technology extends the depth of focus for both eyes so that they have a blend zone in the intermediate area of vision. This means they achieve excellent levels of distance, intermediate and near vision. Some patients may need a repeat procedure as their presbyopia worsens or they may need cataract surgery in the future if they develop cataracts. It is most suited for presbyopic individuals from the age of 40 to 55.

2) Refractive Lens Exchange involves removing the individuals’ own lens and replacing it with a synthetic lens which corrects distance, intermediate and near vision. This can be performed on patients with clear lenses or those with cataracts. It is a painless 10 minute procedure with rapid visual recovery. I often treat both eyes on the same day and most patients are back at work within a week. Again, it is safe and effective in the hands of a skilled and qualified professional. It is often more suitable for individuals over the age of 55 desiring a more definitive solution.

Who could be suitable for presbyopia correction?

All presbyopic patients desiring spectacle independence are suitable for presbyopia correction provided they do not have serious ocular disease. The best way to explore this is to seek the advice and assessment of a qualified and experienced Consultant Refractive Eye Surgeon with access to the latest diagnostic and therapeutic equipment. In addition, they should also be able to offer both laser vision correction and lens replacement surgery to be able to give you the best possible advice.

Who should perform presbyopia correction?

Vision and Presbyopia Correction Surgery is a highly specialised field. It requires close attention to detail and the ability to customise the treatment to each individual’s lifestyle needs and eye health. Things to look out for are, if the Surgeon is both on the GMC Specialist Register for Ophthalmology and has the Royal College of Ophthalmologist Certificate in Laser and Refractive Surgery (CertLRS).

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This blog has been co-created by consultant ophthalmic surgeon, Mr Amir Hamid and Medstars Meenal Lad

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