The Aging Eye: What to Know About Presbyopia
Most people know that, as they get older, changes in their hormones and biology will affect various parts of the body. We know that when the body doesn't make as much collagen as it once did, we can expect to start seeing wrinkles in all sorts of places. Similarly, when muscle weakness and chemical changes occur in the eyes, we can expect to encounter difficulties such as blurriness when reading small print. We call this presbyopia and want to discuss what can be done to address this common change in vision.
Presbyopia develops in the lens of the eye. The lens is the part of the eye that light passes through. It is typically soft and somewhat rubbery, able to focus rays of light into a point on the retina at the back of the eye. With age, the flexibility of the lens decreases, limiting the efficiency of focus at near distances. This may be remedied by wearing reading glasses or bifocals if needed. Healthy lifestyle choices may not reverse presbyopia but may slow the speed of changes in the eyes' lenses.
Tips for slowing the onset and progression of presbyopia include:
- Take your vitamins. Multiple studies confirm that most people do not get all the nutrients they need from diet alone. Vitamins including A and B, as well as zinc, and bioflavinoids all support optimal eye health. Some manufacturers have developed supplements formulated just for the eyes.
- Manage blood glucose. High blood sugar levels increase the risks of both cataracts and diabetic retinopathy. Diabetes also presents a risk of damage to the blood vessels and other tissues of the eye, including the lens.
- Consume green tea. This beverage contains flavinoids that have been proven particularly beneficial for vision and eye health.
Presbyopia and LASIK
Due to the prevalence of LASIK refractive eye surgery, many people ask if this procedure could correct their farsightedness caused by presbyopia. Unfortunately, this is not possible. LASIK works by reshaping the cornea. Because presbyopia is caused by a lens abnormality, the only adequate surgical correction would be to replace the lens. Refractive lens exchange can reduce or eliminate the need for eyeglasses, though many people shy away from a more complex procedure unless other risks, such as cataracts, exist.