See through the myths of presbyopia

Presbyopia (lao hua yan) affects everyone from the age of 40 onwards. It causes progressive difficulty in the ability to focus when reading and or looking at near objects.

A fast-ageing population in Singapore has led to a higher incidence of presbyopia, or the age-related loss of clear near vision. Ophthalmologist from Eagle Eye Centre Harold Choi debunks some of the preventive myths

Myth 1: Eye exercises prevent presbyopia.

Truth: Presbyopia develops because the intraocular muscles and the lens that helps to focus for near vision have undergone ageing. With less elasticity, the eye has a harder time focusing up close.

It is common that almost everyone will suffer a gradual loss of flexibility in the natural lens of the eye, some as early as at 40 years. There is no exercise or dietary supplement to retard this process.

Myth 2: More women develop presbyopia than men.

Truth: There is no gender predisposition. Presbyopia affects men and women alike.

Myth 3: Farsightedness is the same as presbyopia.

Truth: Farsightedness, also known as hyperopia, is the opposite of nearsightedness or myopia. Patients with hyperopia need to wear multifocal lenses to achieve both far and near vision. Presbyopia is the inability to focus for near vision due to age. It affects everybody, both myopes and hyperopes, after the age of about 45.

Myth 4: Lasik prevents presbyopia.

Truth: Lasik does not prevent presbyopia. There is nothing in the world that can prevent ageing changes in the eye. However Lasik can correct the effects of presbyopia, and allow the patient to read.

Myth 5: If you have 20/20 eyesight, it is unlikely you will develop presbyopia.

Truth: Having perfect vision does not protect against presbyopia at all.

Myth 6: Cataract operation corrects presbyopia.

Truth: There are several ways of correcting presbyopia with cataract surgery. An intraocular lens is implanted during cataract surgery, and lenses can be selected to allow a patient to see well or near.

There are various strategies of tackling presbyopia with cataract surgery. One popular strategy is using monovision, that is achieving good far vision for one eye and near vision for the other eye. Another is to insert multi-focal intraocular lenses. There is no one technique that is suitable for all patients.

Myth 7: Using your eyes too much will wear them out and lead to presbyopia.

Truth: Using our eyes too much won't "wear them out", or lead to earlier presbyopia. However, it depends on the activities that we put our eyes through. Prolonged computer work, without frequent blinking, can lead to dry eyes and eye strain.

These lead to ocular fatigue, but it would not contribute to earlier presbyopia.

Myth 8: If you develop presbyopia, you will go blind.

Truth: Presbyopia is not blindness. It is easily correctable with glasses, contact lenses, Lasik or cataract surgery.


This article was first published on Nov 15, 2015.
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