You turned 40 and your near vision is suddenly blurry. Why can’t you read small print up close like you used to? Chances are, you’re experiencing presbyopia. Prescription reading glasses or contact lenses are the best solution to correct your vision problems.
What is presbyopia?
Presbyopia is the loss of the eye’s ability to accommodate or focus on objects that are near. This change is due to a hardening of the lens inside the eye and the inability of the lens to change shape. Presbyopia affects 128 million Americans each year and the age of onset is expected around 40.
Is presbyopia the reason you can’t read small print?
Symptoms of presbyopia include difficulty with reading small prescription bottles, menus in dark restaurants, and text messages on your phone. Over time, reading your laptop or desktop computer and the dashboard on your car will become more difficult.
Presbyopia affects each one of us as we age. It is not an effect of digital device use or unhealthy eating; it is simply a change in the anatomy of the eye which may be corrected only with glasses or contact lenses. Your near vision will change each year until around age 62 and an optometrist can adjust your prescription accordingly.
Solutions for presbyopia
An eye doctor can evaluate your vision and will ask you about your occupation and vision needs to determine the best prescription for your eyes. Reading glasses, computer glasses, and/or contacts lenses may be the recommended solutions.
1. Over-the-counter (OTC) reading glasses
Over-the-counter reading glasses are the inexpensive “cheater” glasses purchased at your local pharmacy, grocery store or department store. OTC reading glasses do not have a prescription written by a doctor and have the same power in both eyes.
They are often a quick, cheap solution to help with blurry reading vision. OTC glasses may work for some people if they only use one computer or sit at their desk all day, but most will discover OTC readers to be inconvenient.
When you put on OTC readers your distance vision will become blurry and you will have to remove them for all activities beyond reading. They only have one power so you will likely need two sets: a power for using your computer and power for reading.
While reading glasses do not make your vision worse or damage your eyes, most of us need a more custom solution. If you have an unequal prescription between your two eyes and you use “cheaters,” you may get headaches or experience eye fatigue.
Prescription reading lenses are the solution.
2. Prescription reading glasses
Prescription reading glasses are customized and prescribed by your optometrist. The prescription considers the difference in the vision between your two eyes and the distance from which you perform most of your near work. A doctor’s prescription can provide you with the necessary information to order reading glasses. Keep in mind, reading glasses will be specifically for reading, so it’s unlikely they will be perfect for using a computer.
When compared to drug store cheaters, prescription reading glasses have two important benefits:
- Custom vision solution prescribed only for you
Though non-prescription drug store glasses may function for reading, they are rarely the best option.
- A prescription will include correction for astigmatism
This is a very important distinction. The prevalence of astigmatism in America is as high as 27.2%. If you have astigmatism and are not corrected for it, you are more likely to experience headaches, eye fatigue, and make errors in your work.
3. Computer/occupational glasses
Computer glasses are often called both occupational and/or workspace glasses. These prescription lenses are specifically designed for intermediate vision, but they do include a power for reading. They allow you to see clearly for various activities including viewing a desktop computer or tablet, and when you go to a restaurant, the space on the table where your drinking glass sits.
Computer lenses are like progressive lenses; they have more than one viewing distance, but they are different because they do not include correction for distance vision. It is not safe to drive with computer or occupational lenses. These lenses allow you to view your desktop computer, workspace, and reading materials more easily and without having to move your head up and down as much.
The power you need for reading is also within the lens for added convenience, so you do not have to make a separate purchase for reading. This type of eyeglasses is ideal for those who spend most of their day at the computer and need to easily switch their between multiple monitors at multiple distances. Computer lenses are the most functional lenses for computer users.
4. Contact lenses
Even if you have never worn contacts, once you experience presbyopia, contact lenses can be a great solution if you prefer not to wear glasses or are unable to wear glasses due to occupation or lifestyle. After 40, your optometrist may give you the option of monovision contacts or multifocal contacts. Trying contact lenses is the only way to determine if monovision or multifocal contacts are best for you.
Monovision contacts correct your vision by using your dominant eye to see distance and your non-dominant eye to see objects at close range. This may seem weird, but it works very well. Your brain will be quickly trained to use your eyes in this way.
Everyone is different in their ability to adapt to their new vision; some may take days, and some may take weeks. Each day you wear your contact lenses, you should notice an improvement in driving at night and depth perception. Monovision contact lenses can be prescribed in almost any brand or power.
Multifocal contact lenses are available in several designs, but all have separations in the lenses for distance, near, and intermediate viewing. This provides your doctor with many contact lens fitting options.
Multifocal contact lenses provide greater depth perception for patients but may also cause some halo effect around letters or car lights at night. The optics of the lens may be designed based on pupil size, so your success is somewhat determined by your pupil size in specific lighting conditions. Multifocal contacts are available in many contact lens brands and are available in daily, monthly, and biweekly wearing options.
Benefits of reading glasses vs. contacts for near vision
- Glasses provide you with more depth perception because you are using both eyes for every task and are fully corrected at each distance.
- Glasses tend to be preferred on the computer for more comfortable viewing due to less dry eye.
- Glasses can be customized for all viewing distances.
- Contact lenses allow you to perform activities without the need for glasses.
While experiencing presbyopia can be frustrating, a visit to your optometrist to assess your vision will provide you many options to correct your blurry near vision. Reading glasses, computer glasses, and/or contact lenses may be prescribed to you based on your specific vision needs.