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Is everything nearby going just a bit blurry, and you're in your early forties? You probably need reading glasses. Find out what presbyopia is, and why getting a proper pair of prescription glasses is better than just heading to the nearest store.

Reading glasses are a definite sign of aging, and unfortunately a rather visible one at that. If you're reading this (perhaps with rather a bit of difficulty!), you may well be wondering if it's time for you to look into reading glasses. You're probably 40 or a little older, and have found that nearby things are gradually becoming more and more blurry. Your newspaper, shopping list, computer screen, knitting work and similar close-up items are becoming harder and harder to see properly. Your eyes really are working differently than before. Why is that, and what can you do about it?

What Is Presbyopia?

Presbyopia is the medical term for the condition that requires people who want to see nearby objects clearly to need reading glasses. The term comes from Greek and loosely translates to "old man's vision". Presbyopia isn't like other vision issues, like astigmatism, nearsightedness, or farsightedness. It isn't a disorder caused by your genetics or environmental factors. It's just what happens when you get older. Presbyopia comes along whether you're a person who has never worn glasses, other than perhaps sun glasses, or you've got other diagnosed vision issues and wear glasses already. Presbyopia doesn't skip anyone.

Why does this happen?  There are actually several schools of thought on that one. We do know that the proteins in the lens change as you age, making your lenses less elastic and harder. Though several theories exist about the exact mechanism that causes presbyopia, it's commonly believed that this loss of elasticity and hardening of the lenses makes it harder for the eye to focus on the things immediately in front of you. As the lens loses elasticity, its curvature may also alter. 

The First Signs You Need Reading Glasses

Because presbyopia strikes gradually, it may take you a while to figure out that you probably need reading glasses. You may not notice, think you're ill, or assume the lighting in the room is bad. When the situation doesn't just not improve with time but actually worsens, you'll know something is up.

The warning signs of presbyopia are pretty easy to work out: you'll have consistent difficulties with viewing reading materials and other close-by objects.

Some other tell-tale signs that you need reading glasses are:

  • You find yourself moving your book, shopping list, or other object further away from yourself in order to see it more clearly. If you need to stretch your arms in front of you to see a book clearly (but probably think your arms aren't long enough), you are probably a wonderful candidate for reading glasses.
  • After trying to focus on nearby objects, you develop a headache.
  • Your difficulties aren't limited to reading, but also involve other activities that require you to focus your eyes on nearby things. Sewing, knitting, drawing, filing your nails, cleaning your gun, and identifying insects are all random activities that come to my mind — it really is everything right in front of your eyes that becomes blurry though.
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