Eye Health

14 September 2010

Better vision after 40

Almost everyone over 40 needs a pair of glasses. Progressive addition lenses can restore 20/20 vision.

All of a sudden, you find it difficult to push a thread through the eye of the needle or you have to hold your newspaper far away from your face so that you can read it.

These are the first signs of the age-related vision problem called presbyopia. It is a normal process and no cause for concern. Advanced
progressive addition lenses are now available to ensure that you can enjoy clear vision near and far.


It begins somewhere between the age of 40 and 50 - the lenses and ring muscles in your eyes lose elasticity. The eye is no longer able to automatically zoom in on close-range objects. The eye is losing what is called accommodation - the ability to bend the eye’s lens to adjust to different distances. This is the first sign of presbyopia.

As accommodation begins to decline, the ability to focus at close range is reduced, because the lens is unable to bend sufficiently. Consequently, light beams that penetrate the eye from nearby don’t come to a focus on the retina, and the result is a blurred image.

Farsighted people may encounter this problem earlier, because their basic vision condition causes problems in seeing things that are close-up. The reason is that the eyeball is too short and the incoming rays of light are not accurately depicted on the retina.

Without glasses

Nearsighted people might actually see things in their immediate range of vision better without glasses than they do with them. Taking your glasses on and off constantly, though, can be quite annoying. Consequently, the best solution, regardless of whether you had normal vision or wore glasses before, is a pair of eyeglasses with progressive lenses.

Those who had normal vision when they were younger will initially only need reading glasses. However, age-driven vision problems do amplify as the years progress. As people age, they need a correction for medium-range vision as well.

In such cases, progressive lenses are the perfect solution, as they accommodate all viewing distances from near to far, without the annoying line of a bifocal lens, and with a smooth change of focus.

The number one benefit of progressive lenses is that the eye can easily and sharply focus on any object, whether it is in the distance or nearby.

Today, special-use glasses (sometimes called office or computer glasses) with expanded visual zones for medium-range and close-up distances are available for users who spend a lot of time working on computers. These special progressive addition lenses are optimised for clear vision at the distance between the user and the monitor.

What are bifocal and trifocal lenses?

Bifocal and trifocal lenses were the preferred eyeglass solution for presbyopia before progressive lenses were developed. Some people still prefer them; however, these lenses have both visual and cosmetic issues.

The bifocal line not only detracts from the wearer’s appearance; it also creates and “image jump” between distance and near vision. Also, bifocals and trifocals cannot provide smooth, continuous vision to all distances.
(Carl Zeiss Vision/ September 2010)


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Megan Goodman qualified as an optometrist from the University of Johannesburg. She has recently completed a Masters degree in Clinical Epidemiology at Stellenbosch University. She has a keen interest in ocular pathology and evidence based medicine as well as contact lenses.

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