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Overview of presbyopia

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In young healthy eyes the lens changes shape to focus light onto the retina. In presbyopia this doesn't happenPresbyopia, or long-sightedness that begins in middle age, makes it hard to focus on things that are up close. It is not a disease but a normal part of getting older. It affects everyone, even people who have never had any eyesight problems before.

Presbyopia usually affects people who are 40 or older. It is different from hyperopia, another form of long-sightedness, which makes it difficult for younger people to focus on things up close. Hyperopia happens because their eyeball is shorter than normal or the front surface of their eye (the cornea) is too flat.

Causes of presbyopia

Normal healthy, young eyes can focus from far in the distance to just a few centimetres from the eye. This is because the lenses in young eyes are very flexible and can change shape to focus on different things. This happens so quickly that we don't even know our eye is refocusing.

As we get older, the lenses in our eyes thicken and slowly lose their flexibility, making it difficult to see things that are very close to our eyes.

Around the age of 40 to 45, things become very blurry at our normal reading distance. We have to hold print further away to read it.

This loss of focusing ability is called presbyopia. It is not a disease, but a normal change that affects everyone.

Presbyopia doesn't happen suddenly and it doesn't affect your distance vision. The process that causes presbyopia starts in adolescence, and we can't stop it.

Symptoms of presbyopia

People usually start noticing the symptoms of presbyopia in their early to mid-40s. Symptoms are:

If you notice any of these symptoms and you are 40 or older, you probably have presbyopia. The symptoms will continue to get worse until around age 60.

On the next page: Treating presbyopia

Written by Canterbury optometrists. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by clinical director, Ophthalmology, Canterbury DHB. Last reviewed November 2019.


Page reference: 133522

Review key: HIVIP-134077