Presbyopia Causes & Risk Factors

Published: February 2, 2012

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What are the Causes?

Presbyopia occurs naturally as people age. It is not a disease, and it does not occur as a result of any physical abnormalities. Even if you see an ophthalmologist, it is not possible to prevent your vision from worsening. Even people who have never experienced vision problems will develop presbyopia as they become older. Presbyopia should not be a cause for worry unless your vision is degenerating rapidly or if you are noticing problems in your quality of life. With glasses, bifocals, or contact lenses, you should be able to correct your vision problems and maintain your daily life.

The condition relates to the elasticity of the muscles within your eyes. Over time, the lens of the eye becomes less and less elastic. As a result, the ability to focus on close objects will degenerate. Most people will start to notice diminished vision when they reach their mid-40s. As a people continue to age, their vision will worsen. Your vision may degenerate at different rates in each eye.

It is also believed that loss of muscle power is responsible for causing presbyopia. The ciliary muscles are smooth muscles that are located in the eye's middle layer. These muscles control a person's ability to see at different distances. This muscle has both parasympathetic and sympathetic nerve controls, which means that the eye's ability to focus is automatic. As you age, the nerves within the eyes will become weaker, and you will lose muscle power.

Changes in the eye's lens curvature will also contribute to presbyopia. As people grow older, the lens of the eye changes shape. These changes can affect the rate at which presbyopia develops.

A room's lighting can cause symptoms to appear worse. You might find that it is easier to read and see objects up close when the room is bright. During the day, symptoms of presbyopia may be difficult to notice, and you may only have trouble with your vision at night or in low-light conditions.

Presbyopia is not caused by preexisting vision conditions such as myopia (near-sightedness). It is a process that occurs on its own, independent of your medical history. Even if you have never had problems with your vision in the past, you could still develop presbyopia as you become older.

Certain medical conditions such as diabetes can cause vision to degenerate at an accelerated rate. In some situations, you might not be able to tell whether your vision is becoming worse because of presbyopia, which is not a reason for concern, or another medical condition, which is a reason for concern. For this reason, you should stay up to date with your eye exams and routine physicals to monitor other conditions that may be causing problems with your vision.

Who's at Risk?

Everyone is at risk for developing presbyopia, regardless of gender, race, and other demographic factors. The only risk factor is age, since people start to develop presbyopia in their mid-'40s.

The condition is a natural part of the aging process, and all people will notice vision changes to some extent; however, for some people, vision changes may be more extreme and more rapid. Your family's medical history may provide some information about what you can expect. The rate at which your vision degenerates depends on a variety of environmental and genetic factors. Your vision may become worse at different rates in each eye.

If you notice your vision degenerating, it is important that you determine whether you are at risk for other conditions like diabetes, glaucoma, or cataracts. Your family's medical history might provide some indication of whether you should undergo tests for more serious conditions. You should also stay up to date with your routine physical and vision exams to catch these conditions early-on and before they become serious.

The best way to minimize any possible risks is to undergo routine diagnostic exams. A health care professional can monitor your vision and identify whether you are at risk for more serious medical problems. It is recommended that people undergo a routine eye exam at least once a year. A doctor can determine a plan that is right for you.

Even though presbyopia is not a disease, you can experience some risks that are related to your difficulty reading. You might have trouble reading important information on medication labels or at work. For this reason, you should see a doctor to have your vision assessed. Glasses will help you keep your ability to read and see up close.

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