Does your vision get blurry when you try to read fine print? Find yourself pulling the votive to your side of the dinner table in order to read a restaurant menu? You're not alone—I for one have noticed that my vision isn't what it once was, have bought reading glasses to wear at night, and even find myself reaching for them during the day. I turned to Dr. Michael Pier, Director of Professional Relations and Practitioner Education for Bausch + Lomb, for some answers to my questions, and to hear about what's new with contact lenses.
Is occasional blurry vision an inevitable part of aging?
There's a change that occurs in our 40s and early 50s called presbyopia, which is the technical term for the loss of the ability to focus on things up close. Pretty much 99% of everybody experiences it to some degree. Initially it could just be eye strain, or headaches that occur after a lot of reading, and eventually can develop into an inability to focus clearly when reading.
Is blurry vision at night the first sign of a descent into blindness?
No! The good news is that it's a natural change of the lens of the eye, and it definitely does not mean you're going blind. The bad news is that you'll probably need a corrective device to regain your focus.
If I delay getting corrective glasses or contacts will I make it worse?
No, you won't make it worse, but it's not going to suddenly get better either. But you should use it as motivation to get a thorough eye examination, which you should be doing at this age anyway.
Why is an eye exam so important—can't I just pick up some reading glasses at the drug store?
There are eye problems that can start at midlife that don't have symptoms for a while, but are better if caught early. The most common are glaucoma and early cataracts. You might not have any pain or loss of vision at first, but an eye doctor will catch them and treat them early. Also hypertension and diabetes can manifest themselves in the eyes. Blurry vision can be a wake up alarm that helps you catch many different things, so a good eye exam is well worth the spend.
Okay, so I need an eye exam, but do I really need prescription lenses?
You may or you may not, and your eye doctor can tell you, but the down side to just buying reading glasses at the drugstore without consulting a doctor is that your eyes may not move into presbyopia at an equal rate, so reading glasses might strain them because they aren't individualized. This won't cause you to go blind, but it won't give you the relief you're looking for. But if a doctor checks you out and says that you can go to the drugstore and buy reading glasses, then it's fine to do that.
What are the advantages to contact lenses over glasses?
The main advantage is of course that you don't have to look for them, or risk losing them, or have them sitting on the end of your nose. Contacts give you prescription capability everywhere you look—near, far, and everywhere in between. Plus they improve your peripheral vision, whereas with glasses you need to point your nose in a certain direction to bring things into focus. With contacts you can look up, down, side to side . . it's a much more natural way to see. Then there's the cosmetic aspect to it—most people don't want to pull out reading glasses at a restaurant.
I've heard that you can now get bifocal contact lenses, in case your vision needs differ for near and distance vision?
Yes, the earliest "multifocal" contact lenses came out around 2005-2006, and in 2007 Bausch and Lomb introduced Purevision multifocals, which have better technology than the earliest versions, and other manufacturers have come into the area as well.
Are there contacts that help specifically with night vision?
Yes. As we get older our awareness of glare and halos increases, especially at night. When the pupil gets bigger in the dark it loses the crispness of its focus. So compensating for that is important. Bausch and Lomb has incorporated something called HD optics, which uses a specific type of aspheric design to reduce and in some cases eliminate halos and glare.
Can Lasik surgery cure presbyopia?
There's a lot of work being done to try to get laser surgery to cure this type of problem, but it's still in its infancy and most doctors don't recommend it for that. The most common referrals to laser surgery are for astigmatism and nearsightedness, not for presbyopia.
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