What is presbyopia?

Presbyopia is a common type of vision disorder that occurs as you age. It is often referred to as the aging eye condition. Presbyopia results in the inability to focus up close, a problem associated with refraction in the eye.

A color illustration of presbyopia highlighting the cornea, pupil and lens, and the way an image focuses behind the retina.

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Can I have presbyopia and another type of refractive error at the same time?

Yes. It is common to have presbyopia and another type of refractive error at the same time. There are several other types of refractive errors: myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and astigmatism.

An individual may have one type of refractive error in one eye and a different type of refractive error in the other.

How does presbyopia occur?

Presbyopia happens naturally in people as they age. When you are younger, the lens of the eye is soft and flexible, allowing the tiny muscles inside the eye to easily reshape the lens and focus on close and distant objects.   As we age lens slowly gets harder, unable to change shape as easily.  This harder lens causes light to focus behind the retina, causing poor vision for objects that are up close.

Who is at risk for presbyopia?

Anyone over the age of 35 is at risk for developing presbyopia. 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?

Some of the signs and symptoms of presbyopia include:

• Hard time reading small print

• Having to hold reading material farther than arm's distance

• Problems seeing objects that are close to you

• Headaches

• Eyestrain

If you experience any of these symptoms you may want to 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.

How is presbyopia diagnosed?

Presbyopia can be found during a comprehensive dilated eye exam. If you notice any changes in your vision, you should visit an eye care professional. Exams are recommended more often after the age 40 to check for age-related conditions.

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 often can help with reading vision. 

Contact lenses can also be used to correct presbyopia.  This may be accomplished by different means such as bifocal contact lenses or monovision contact lenses but may not work for everyone.   Refractive surgery is constantly evolving and new laser therapies for presbyopia are being developed.   Ask your eye doctor what options may be appropriate for you.