Presbyopia Defined

Your vision over 40. Cecile Lavabre

Presbyopia is defined as the loss of the eye's ability to change focus to see near objects. Presbyopia, or "short-armed syndrome", decreases our ability to focus on near objects. Presbyopia is a vision disorder that develops as we age. This condition occurs at approximately 40 years of age. Everyone will eventually develop presbyopia.

Signs and Symptoms

The main symptom of presbyopia is the inability to focus on near objects, such as small print on a medicine bottle or in a phone book.

The condition is often referred to as "short arm syndrome" because holding print out further seems to make it easier to read. Patients may complain of needing more light to read, as contrasting ability decreases. Presbyopic eyes also feel fatigued and seem to tire more easily. Some presbyopic patients may also have fluctuating vision, as their eyes are attempting to overcompensate for the vision deficit. This is called "accommodative spasm."


Presbyopia is caused by an age-related process. As we age, the lens inside the eye gradually loses its flexibility, making it harder to focus up close. Although it seems to come on suddenly in the early forties, in reality the eye slowly loses its near focusing power throughout life. It only seems to start affecting the distance of approximately 16 inches at around the age of 40. Presbyopia worsens slowly to about the age of 65, when most reserve focusing power is lost.


Diagnosis of presbyopia is made by first undergoing a comprehensive eye examination. Your eye doctor will measure your amplitude of accommodation, or reserve near focusing power, and perform a simple refraction test to reveal the condition.


There is no way to prevent presbyopia, but it is easily treated.

Your eye doctor may prescribe reading glasses, bifocals or progressive addition lenses to correct presbyopia. Patients may also decide to be corrected with certain contact lenses, such as multifocal and monovision contact lenses. Others may choose to undergo a refractive surgical procedure, such as monovision laser vision correction (LASIK, laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis) or a corneal keratoplasty procedure (CK, conductive keratoplasty.) Furthermore, new multifocal intraocular lens implants are available to patients.

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