Presbyopia is an age-related change that typically affects patients around the age of 45. Presbyopic patients typically require reading glasses, when they previously did not require any glasses. Presbyopia occurs because the flexible lens inside the eye, which helps to focus objects by changing its shape, gradually becomes rigid.
When a normal patient, not nearsighted or farsighted, looks off into the distance, the lens inside the eye is very thin in shape. When that same person then looks at an object at near, the lens changes shape to become thicker. There are muscles inside the eye that cause the lens to make these changes in shape. When a patient is young, the lens inside the eye is quite flexible and able to change shape rapidly. It can become very thin for objects that need to be seen in the distance (driving), and it can become very thick for objects that need to be seen at near (reading). As we near the age of 45, this lens becomes less flexible. It has difficultly becoming thick enough to see objects at arms length away or closer. Patients at this age often complain of their arms not being long enough to allow them to read. At this point in life the muscles in the eye are not powerful enough to overcome the rigidity of the lens to bring the near object into focus. That patient is then said to have presbyopia. Presbyopia can be corrected with glasses, contacts or refractive surgery. Multifocal implants are another option for some presbyopic patients. Presbyopia is a progressive condition that only gets worse with time. There is no clinically proven way to stop or cure this process in the natural eye without the use of lenses (glasses or contacts) or surgery. But, using these methods, a presbyopic patient can achieve much better vision and a higher quality of life.