Vision Problems That Accompany Aging

One thing we can be sure of, our eyes and vision will change as we age. Starting at about age forty, for example, we all experience presbyopia. Presbyopia is the reduced ability of the lens to focus, and is due to lost flexibility in the lens. One symptom of this normal (although frustrating) change is needing to hold the newspaper farther and farther way, to be able to read it leading to the “my arms aren’t long enough anymore” comment.

Presbyopia normally continues to progress until age sixty-five or seventy. It creates the need for progressively stronger reading glasses at regular intervals.


People often “self-prescribe” and purchase progressively stronger generic or “drug store” reading glasses as their vision changes. This approach is potentially dangerous because:

  • Generic reading glasses have identical lens strength in both eyes, but visual sharpness generally differs between a person’s eyes.
  • The person may overlook a potentially more serious eye problem.

Regular Eye Exams

Once presbyopia begins, it becomes particularly important that we have our eyes checked regularly and thoroughly by a qualified vision specialist. With these check-ups, we can deal better with normal changes in our eyes, and we can catch the beginning of aging-related eye disorders.

In a thorough check-up, you’ll discuss your general health and history, and any eye or vision problems you are having. You should also discuss your lifestyle and how you use your eyes. With complete information, your vision specialist will be able to do the best job meeting your needs and making things easier for your eyes.

As examples,

  • If you let your specialist know that you spend lots of time outdoors, your specialist can prescribe coatings for your glasses that reduce glare or make transitions from sunshine to shade easier on your eyes.
  • If you spend a lot of time reading, or at your computer, you can take an accurate measurement of the normal distance from your eyes to the reading material or computer screen. By sharing that information, the specialist will be able to fit your prescription to optimize those activities.

Bi-Focals, Tri-Focals, Progressives

When working or driving, bi-focals can help coordinate both near and far vision. As our eyes age, however, the difference between our “near” vision and our “far” vision increases. This creates blurred vision in the in-between, or “mid-range” area. Tri-focals offer a smooth visual transition from near to far vision, making your vision clear and comfortable, and your eyeglasses more efficient. Progressive lenses perform the same function as tri-focals, and many people find them more cosmetically pleasing.

Adjusting to New Glasses

Normally, one week’s time should be adequate for the eyes to feel comfortable with new glasses or a new prescription. If discomfort continues beyond this time, re-visit your vision specialist for corrections.

Making It Easier for Your Eyes

Frequent, repeated dilating and constricting of the eyes due to shifting from bright light to dim light (or vice versa) is a significant stresser for our eyes. To minimize these “high-contrast” eye-stressers,

  • When watching television or working at the computer, keep the area around the viewing screen dimly lit.
  • When reading, make sure the light is directly on your reading material, and have moderate surrounding lighting.

Summing Up

Your eyes and vision are important assets. Preserve and protect them:

  • Acknowledge that they’ll change as you age.
  • Make it easier for your eyes.
  • Don’t self-prescribe.
  • Make regular, thorough eye exams part of your plan to live better, longer.

For more information on the impact of aging on vision, you may visit the National Eye Institute online at