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When Your Arms Aren’t Long Enough – Cheaters, Bifocals, and Presbyopia

-The Eye Digest-

When Your Arms Aren't Long Enough - Cheaters, Bifocals, and Presbyopia

Ok, so it happened.   You never thought it would happen to you. You never dreamed of the day, but it just happened. You were holding your phone, typing a text to your teenage daughter (pizza tonight after soccer practice), when all of a sudden…

It went blurry!

You felt some eyestrain too. But then you pushed the phone screen further away. Much better. Everything is clear. No worries. You will not need any of those crazy reading glasses from that rack in the drugstore.

Fast forward a few months into the future. Now for some reason, your arms are not long enough. The phone is getting really difficult to read. To add insult to injury, you can no longer read all the amazing and loving birthday texts that are being sent to you today. And it’s a big one. 45 years young.

So what is this weird phenomenon we all experience around middle age, where we start to have trouble reading? What causes these so-called old man/old lady eyes?

The answers to all these questions lies in a process called Presbyopia.

Presbyopia is when your eyes gradually lose the ability to see things clearly up close. Presbyopia is shutterstock 291046895separate from the term farsightedness, and is directly linked to aging changes. In fact, presbyopia is a normal part of aging and happens universally to individuals starting at age 40. The word “presbyopia” means “old eye” in Greek.

When does it start?

While the process of presbyopia starts at age 40, most individuals experience the manifested symptoms of the condition in the mid-40s. The most common symptoms that individuals find is that reading up close become much tougher. Either magnification or pushing reading material further away from the eye are used to help overcome symptoms of presbyopia.

How does the process of presbyopia occur?

Your clear lens sits inside the eye behind your colored iris. It changes shape to focus light onto the retinapresbyopia test1 so you can see. In youth, the lens is soft and flexible and can easily change shape by means of a muscle called the ciliary body. This lets you focus on objects that are close up, through a process known as accommodation. After age 40, the lens becomes more rigid. The ciliary body can no longer change the shape of the lens as easily as before. This makes it harder to read, check your phone, thread a needle, or look at a medicine bottle.

What can we do to treat presbyopia?

2 1There is no way to stop or reverse the normal aging process that causes presbyopia. However, presbyopia can be corrected with eyeglasses such as reading glasses (often known as readers or cheaters), bifocals, or progressive lenses.   Special contact lenses can be used to correct presbyopia as well. Additionally, surgical interventions such as KAMRA inlay are currently being explored in an effort to free individuals from the need of glasses or contact lenses.

If you have any questions about correction options for presbyopia or feel that your eyesight is just not as good as it used to be, do not hesitate to schedule an appointment with us!

Next week, tune in to the EYE Digest to learn about different types of lenses that we use in glasses.

-Dr. Aaron Neufeld

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Dr. Aaron Neufeld is the Chief Optometrist at Los Altos Optometric Group and primary author and editor of The EYE Digest.

Contact him with questions or ideas for future articles at (650) 948-3700 or


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