If you have hit your mid-40s, something odd may be occurring. Text that was once easy for you to read is now seems smaller, blurrier and darker. If you are discovering that text is harder to see, there is a very good chance it’s time to get your first pair of reading glasses.

Presbyopia and What It Means to You

Take heart that you are not alone. Also known as “old eyes,” this condition occurs when the lens of the human eye becomes less elastic as we age. This rigidity makes it more difficult to easily focus on objects that are both close-up and far away. It is also believed that the muscles in the eye become weaker as we grow older and that this gradual degeneration also takes its toll on our vision.

According to physicians, presbyopia is a gradual process rather than a condition. Although presbyopia is a product of aging that occurs regardless of gender or race—diseases such as diabetes, glaucoma and cataracts can accelerate the need for reading glasses. If you are at risk for vision loss or have a condition that is known to cause changes in eyesight, it is imperative that you schedule regular eye exams for careful monitoring.

Is It Time For Reading Glasses?

There are a number of telltale signs that it may be time to get a good pair of reading glasses. Some of these include: text that appears fuzzy, frequent headaches when reading, squinting, holding newspapers and magazines at arm’s length, and frequently adjusting computer monitors and room lighting. Certain tasks, such as threading a needle may also prove to be more of a challenge.

If reading glasses are required, your eye care professional can recommend your best options. If you previously suffered from myopia (near-sightedness), you may be a suitable candidate for bifocal lenses that allow your eye to easily transition between focusing on objects that are both far away and close-up.

Drugstore Glasses

While some people may decide to make a quick trip to the drug store to purchase a cheap pair of reading specs, most of these glasses are mass-produced and may have defects that can actually causes wearers even greater vision problems. While drugstore glasses are the least expensive, they may not be the best option. If you must use this type of reading glasses, be sure to pick up one pair for reading books and another pair for computer work (stand back the distance you would sit from your monitor to find the proper magnification).

Your best and safest course of action is to meet with an eye care professional who can correctly diagnose any vision problems. If you suspect that your vision has changed, you should meet with a ophthalmologist or optometrist to have a thorough eye exam. This usually includes a review of your medical history, a retinal exam and several tests.

Bifocals Have Come a Long Way

An improvement upon the standard bifocal lens has been the “progressive” lens, also known as the progressive additional lens (PAL), “seamless” lenses and “invisible” lenses. Progressive lenses offer gradient lens power, which eliminate the glass lines found in typical bifocal and trifocal lenses. A word of caution—it may take several days for you to acclimate to wearing progressive lenses. Depth and distance perception may also be temporarily affected.

For individuals seeking a more aesthetic solution to vision correction, another option is multi-focal contact lenses. These lenses offer the wearer both close and distance vision correction. Like progressive lenses, multi-focal contacts also offer a gradient-powered lens. Since contact lenses may not be suitable or practical for every activity, you should speak with your eye care provider about prescribing a back-up pair of glasses.

A Final Note

Whether you are considering prescription eye wear, over-the-counter glasses or contact lenses, if you have noticed a change in vision your first step should be an appointment with your ophthalmologist or optometrist. These trained professionals will help you select eyewear that protects your vision and best suits your appearance and lifestyle.

Photo credit: Reading Glasses by Martin Ugod/flickr

Jennifer Warner is an eyewear consultant specializing in contact lenses, and she is especially excited about all the new research for contact lenses for astigmatism such as toric lenses.