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Are Your Arms Getting Too Short?

November 17, 2008

Most people between 40 and 50 begin to notice that they are losing their ability to see things close to their eyes. At the same time, distance vision remains unchanged. They often complain, “My arms are getting too short.”

Presbyopia is a loss of focusing ability that comes with getting older. It is certainly a nuisance, but is not dangerous. It is normal, inevitable part of reaching middle age, and is no more abnormal than a gray hair.

In early stages of presbyopia, your eyes will become tired after a long period of close work. When you read, the print may become blurry. It may be difficult to shift your focus from near and far. When you look up from reading, your distance vision may remain blurred for several seconds or minutes until it clears. You may even start to fall asleep while reading for any length of time. Symptoms usually worsen later in the day. They can be reduced by using a good reading light.

Eventually, your zone of clear close-up vision moves so far from your eyes that you can no longer read comfortably. This is when your arms are too short!

The lens within the eye is soft and flexible in young people. This allows it to change its shape, which changes focusing power. This is called accommodation. Presbyopia is caused by a gradual loss in flexibility of the lens that occurs with age, decreasing the ability to accommodate.

When your eyes can no longer accommodate to focus up close, it is time for reading glasses. These glasses  will do the focusing for you. People sometimes notice that their prescription gets “worse” after they start to wear their reading glasses, and they believe the glasses are responsible. Actually, the presbyopia will “worsen” with age, whether or not you wear your glasses, and prescription change will be necessary over the years. Putting off the use of reading glasses will not slow down the progression of presbyopia, it  will only make it difficult to enjoy your reading.

Note from CMS:  I came across the following video which explains presbyopia from my Twitter friend @CareFlash.  CareFlash.com is also an excellent site to visit!


In a future post I will discuss options to correct presbyopia other than spectacles, including contact lenses and surgical options.

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