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Presbyopia is a normal condition in which your eyes become less able to focus as you get older. Usually, you notice that reading and focusing on objects close up becomes more difficult, although you will still see distant objects clearly. Presbyopia is a natural part of ageing and is normally corrected with the use of glasses or contact lenses.

What causes presbyopia?

As you get older, the lens in your eye becomes harder and less flexible. This makes it harder to focus on close objects.

People often notice changes in their vision around the age of 40.

You might find it harder to focus to read, especially in poor light. You might also find yourself holding your book further away from you, or needing a brighter light for detailed work such as doing a crossword or crafts.

The strain of focusing your eyes might also give you headaches.

Presbyopia usually worsens until around the age of 65. It is a natural part of ageing and there is no known way to avoid it.

Illustration showing the differences between normal vision, vision with presbyopia and presbyopia corrected
Presbyopia causes light to focus behind the retina, making it hard to see close-up objects clearly.

Diagnosis of presbyopia

Your optometrist or ophthalmologist will assess your eye in a comprehensive examination. If you already wear glasses or contact lenses, they will be able to tell you if you need a new prescription.

As presbyopia is a continual process, your prescription is likely to change significantly between the ages of 45 and 65. It is recommended that you have an eye test every 2 to 3 years.

Treatment of presbyopia

Presbyopia is usually corrected with the use of glasses, and sometimes with contact lenses. Many people begin with simple reading glasses, but prescription bifocals, multifocals and more specialised lenses are also available.

Wearing glasses to correct presbyopia doesn't change how quickly the condition develops and will not weaken your eyes.

A few surgical techniques are also available to improve the eyesight of people with presbyopia, but they cannot be reversed and are not totally effective over long periods of time. If you are considering surgery, discuss it first with your doctor and your ophthalmologist.

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Last reviewed: September 2019

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