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How is presbyopia treated?

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To help you compensate for presbyopia, your optometrist can prescribe reading glasses, bifocals, trifocals, multifocals or contact lenses – depending on your natural eyesight, age, lifestyle, occupation, and hobbies.

Vision correction for particular situations

Reading glasses can help to compensate for presbyopiaYou can have lenses to help with specific activities, such as playing the piano, fine needlework or using a computer.

Talk to your optometrist about what you need to be able to do, and if possible get a friend to measure the distance from the computer, music or work to your eyes. This will help the optometrist to work out what prescription you need.

Because presbyopia can complicate other common vision conditions like short-sightedness (also called near-sightedness), existing far-sightedness, and astigmatism, your optometrist will need to thoroughly examine your eyes.

Glasses for presbyopia

Many people find over-the-counter or ready-made glasses help at first, but they often fail to give comfortable or relaxed vision. These glasses do not correct astigmatism (blurring caused by an oval shaped eye) or any difference in the prescription between your eyes. To find out what prescription you need, you will have to have a professional eye exam. Your glasses will also need to be carefully fitted to make sure they are in the right position for your eyes.

Some people who need to wear glasses for seeing in the distance choose to use two different pairs of single-vision glasses – one for reading and another for looking in the distance. If you choose this option you will always need to change glasses between activities, depending on whether you need to focus up close or in the distance.

You can ask for lenses that help you to focus close up and in the distance – this is possible with either bifocal or multifocal (progressive) lenses. Talk to your optometrist about your options.

Bifocal lenses give clear distance vision through the top of the lens, and clear near vision at the bottom, under the line on the lens. As you get older you'll notice a gap between the clear near vision, and the beginning of clear distance vision. When this happens you may need to get trifocal or progressive lenses, so you can see clearly at all distances. Progressive lenses have a graded change from top to bottom and give clear vision at any distance, but with a narrower field of view towards the bottom.

Helpful hints for progressive and bifocal wearers

Contact lenses for presbyopia

One option is to correct one eye for near and one eye for distance vision. This is called "monovision" and means you don't need bifocals or reading glasses, but it can affect your depth perception and make it more difficult to judge distances.

Progressive or multifocal contact lenses can correct for both near and far vision in the same lens. These contact lenses rely on your brain's ability to select the image it wants and to filter out images from other distances. If you get these lenses it might take one to two weeks before you get your best vision – don't expect to see perfectly on the first day. All multifocal lenses involve a compromise between convenience and seeing clearly.

Make sure you have regular eye exams

Between the ages of 45 and 55, our vision changes rapidly and you might need to change your prescription quite regularly. It's best to have regular eye exams to make sure your eyes are healthy and give you efficient and comfortable vision. Have an eye examination every two years after the age of 40, unless your optometrist or ophthalmologist suggests otherwise. After 65 you may have them more often, so your optometrist can diagnose and treat any sight-threatening conditions, such as glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) as soon as possible.

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Written by Canterbury Optometrists.Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Approved by clinical director, Ophthalmology, Canterbury DHB. April 2015.

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Review key: HIVIP-134077