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What is it

Most people over the age of 45 begin to need glasses to read small print even those who still have excellent distance vision. This condition is called presbyopia, a Greek word that literally means old vision. The changes are very gradual, and you won’t notice the loss until one day you find yourself squinting at a newspaper that’s held at arm’s length and still appears to be blurred, or you have trouble reading anything in a dimly lit room. Threading a needle becomes a marathon task. By the time people reach their 50s and 60s, most of them will need some type of assistance with their vision.


  • Blurred vision at normal reading distances.
  • Headache, eye fatigue, stinging, burning, or gritty sensation in the eyes after doing close work.

What causes it

Presbyopia is a perfectly normal condition that occurs when the lens of the eye becomes less flexible and thus less able to change shape and focus on close objects, especially in dim light or when a person is tired.

What if you do nothing

Presbyopia will gradually get worse as you age, and you will find that it’s more difficult to read small print unless you begin using corrective lenses.

Home remedies

Get some drugstore reading glasses

These can cost $100 or more if prescribed by a specialist; yet over-the-counter glasses, which cost around $20 or less, may be just as effective. These glasses must meet the requirements of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), including passing impact resistance tests.

There’s an important caution, however: over- the-counter reading glasses won’t correct near-sightedness, astigmatism, or other refractive defects, and buying a pair of them is no substitute for an eye exam. When you pick out nonprescription reading glasses, be sure you have the time to try on several pairs and to read the test cards provided. You might also carry along a book or newspaper for testing. Glasses will usually be marked with a number ranging from 1.00 to 4.00, indicating the magnifying power (Low magnification would be 1.25 or 1.50; high would be 3.00 and above.) Start at the low end and work your way up, holding the card at a comfortable reading distance.

Increase the amount of light

Especially for reading and other close-up activities. Go from 60- to 100-watt bulbs whenever possible.

Measure your television

Watch television from a distance of at least five times the width of the screen. If you have a 22-inch screen for example, sit at least nine feet away.


There is no way to prevent presbyopia.

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