When do you need reading glasses?

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It is the rare post-middle-aged person that doesn't need reading glasses
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When do you need readers is determined by aging eyes resulting in presbyopia

In the United States, we have a rapidly aging population, called the Baby Boomers. People are living longer and along with that comes the requirements that older people have. Face it: if you are past-middle aged you are probably going to require reading glasses. That is a simple answer to "When do you need readers?"

Those who do not need readers if they are in late middle-age are few and far apart. In fact, if you see a 50-year-old reading without glasses it is a rarity, and she probably has contacts in.

As we age, most of us, if not all of us, are going to develop a condition called presbyopia, which is the inability to focus on close things or as we lay people, say being blinder than a bat, and that is when you are going to need reading glasses.

  • Have you found that it is impossible to read the labels on your medicine bottles?
  • Do you have to hold the newspaper a football field length away from your face in order to read?

If you have answered yes to either, you are in the presbyopia camp. Do not worry. You are in good company.

Americans spend millions on reading glasses, many of which are ready-to-wear and bought at the drugstore. Since 1990, according to the New York Times, the need for reading glasses has grown exponentially because of the Baby Boomer generation. Your new reading glasses will probably become your newest and dearest best friend!

As we age, the lens of the eye hardens, which causes presbyopia. When the lens loses its flexibility it is incapable of changing shape so close-up images become out of focus. Our eyes rely on the cornea, which is the clear, dome-shaped front surface of the eye, and the lens to focus the light that is reflected from objects. The lens is clear. Both the lens and cornea refract or bend light as it enters your eye, which allows the eye to focus the image on the retina that is situated on the inside back wall of the eye.

Unlike the cornea, the lens is flexible and is capable of changing shape due to the circular muscle that encompasses it. When you look at something, in the distance, this circular muscle relaxes. When you look at something close up, the muscle constricts, which allows the elastic lens to curve and change its focusing power. When you are older the muscle does not constrict as it should and you cannot see close-up.

Time takes its toll on the eyes just as it does on other parts of the body. When you get older, changes take place in the muscle fibers that surround the lens in the eye and changes also occur within the protein that is in the lens. The result is an inability to focus close-up.

Progressive addition lenses (or PALS) or bifocal eye glasses are the most common eyeglasses that are prescribed for those with presbyopia. When there is a bifocal this means that there are two points of focus, including the main part of the lens, which contains a prescription for distance vision, as well as the lower part of the lens, which is stronger and is used for close up work and reading. The progressive addition lenses offer a gradual visual transition between the distant and close up prescriptions and there is no visible line on the lens as there is with bifocals.
Reading glasses are generally worn just when a person is reading or working on the computer or doing any kind of work that requires close vision. People do not normally wear their reading glasses all the time. 

In time, you will find that you need to change your reading glasses because your eyes will continue to change and not for the better. You will need a stronger prescription. 

You can select from full frame reading glasses, which have a single vision lens and are good if you wear your glasses for long periods of time. Another option is the half-frame reading glasses that consist of smaller lenses. You can look over the top of the glasses to look at something, in the distance. 

If you do not have any problems with your distance vision you may opt for bifocal reading glasses that do not offer correction at the top of the lens, which is where you do not need it because your distance vision is okay, but there is a segment at the bottom of the lens that corrects your near vision so you can read. 

You can purchase reading glasses that are tinted so that you can read outside but will have protection from UV rays. 

Mayo Clinic: presbyopia
NYTimes: welcome to middle age

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