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What is presbyopia?

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Cross section of the eye showing the lens suspended by fibers (zonules) which are attached the ciliary muscle (ciliary body)

Presbyopia is caused by the stiffening of the crystalline lens inside your eye. The lens is responsible for changing shape to focus on various distances. Presbyopia causes loss of accommodation, which is the ability of the eye to focus at near. Accommodation is controlled by brain pathways which control the muscle surrounding the lens called the ciliary muscle. The ciliary muscle around the lens relaxes for distance viewing, allowing the lens to change shape and become less powerful. The ciliary muscle contracts for near viewing, allowing the lens to change shape and become more powerful. The ciliary muscle remains strong throughout your life, but the lens becomes too stiff to change shape and change focal power. The lens cells continue to grow throughout life, so the lens is increasing in size and becomes stiffer. This stiffening of the lens results in reduced ability to change focus. You will notice that it takes longer for your eyes to focus for reading and then when you look in the distance, it takes time for your eyes to see clearly again. Presbyopia is progressive until approximately 65 years of age. The common myth is that if you wear glasses, they can make your eyes weaker. The truth with presbyopia is that it is going to happen either way. It is your choice if you want to have clear vision for reading. Wearing glasses or choosing to not wear glasses will not change the fact that presbyopia will cause you to have a decreased ability to focus at near. If you are having difficulty reading or seeing fine print, it is time to get your eyes checked to discuss treatments. It is important to check eye health to ensure you will have good vision throughout your life. We can recommend presbyopia treatment options that fit your lifestyle. Some options are drugstore reading glasses, bifocal glasses, progressive lenses, or specific glasses for your job or hobby like computer or office glasses. There are even multifocal contact lenses which work well for sports or social events. Presbyopia happens to everyone and we can help find a solution to elevate your life with clear vision.

Written by Mindy Blumberg

Dr. Mindy Blumberg is an optometrist registered with the BC College of Optometrists and is a member of the BC Doctors of Optometry. She graduated from the University of Waterloo and moved to Whistler, BC, to live in the mountains. Mindy grew up alpine ski racing and now has a special interest in sports vision. She helps with performance vision training with the Canadian Ski Cross and the BC Alpine Ski Team. Dr. Blumberg brings expertise on post-concussion vision rehabilitation and performance sports vision. She also uses these functional vision skills and vision therapy to improve reading and comprehension in children by enhancing the visual systems needed to have academic success.
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