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Face it, your eyes are starting to betray you - either that or your arms are getting shorter. As you hold the newspaper as far from your body as you can, you rationalize that it is because they've made the print smaller to make room for more ads. Either that, or staring at a computer screen for hours at a time have just made your eyes weaker. The truth is, though, that your eyes just aren't as good as they once were.
Sometime after you turned 40, you probably found you needed more distance between your eyes and a page to read, or that focusing on close up work, such as handwriting and sewing, caused headaches, eye strain or just general fatigue. This condition is called presbyopia and it affects everyone. As your eyes get older, their natural lenses gradually get thicker and lose some of their flexibility. As a result, it becomes harder to focus on things up close. This condition even effects people who are naturally near-sighted.
Presbyopia can't be cured or prevented, but it can be effectively treated. If you only have trouble reading and with close up tasks, you may be able to get by with just a pair of reading glasses. However, the most common treatment for presbyopia is the dreaded "B-word" - bifocals. Eyeglasses with bifocal or progressive lenses give your eyes a range of vision correction so that one pair of glasses can help you see better both near and far. Most vision professionals recognize that people may be adverse to wearing glasses for vanity's sake, so they stock the latest fashions of eyewear, including prescription sunglasses, offer smaller and lighter lenses and many other options to make your experience more pleasant.
Still prefer contact lenses? No problem. Your eye doctor can prescribe reading glasses that you can use while wearing your contact lenses. Plus, there now are many different types of multifocal contact lenses that offer the same benefits of bifocals and progressive lenses without the frames.
Another treatment is monovision, in which one eye is corrected for distance vision and the other eye is corrected for near vision. This can be done with contact lenses, glasses or a combination. Your brain learns to favor one eye over the other for different tasks. Monovision has its down sides, including reduced visual acuity and loss of depth perception, but most monovision patients are pleased with the results.
The harsh reality is that presbyopia only gets worse with age, so you will need to work with an eye care professional over time to properly adjust your vision prescription and keep you seeing as well as you can. Regular eye exams have the added benefit of allowing your eye doctor to detect and treat many age-related eye diseases, such as cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma in their early stages, before you experience permanent vision loss. These conditions affect approximately 1.25 million Ohioans, and that number is expected to double over the next two decades.
So, should you see an optometrist or an opthamologist? An optometrist is a licensed professional who performs annual vision examinations to detect vision problems and signs of disease and abnormal conditions. He or she can prescribe vision correction lenses and recommend other treatments. An opthamologist is a medical doctor who specialized in eye and vision care. He or she conducts all the tasks of an optometrist and also can perform surgical procedures. Both types of eye doctor typically work with opticians, who fill lens prescriptions for contact lenses and glasses written by the optometrist or ophthalmologist, and fit patients for glasses or contact lenses.
Start today to build a long-term relationship with your eye care professional so that you see everything you should now and don't miss a thing in years to come.