All about ‘Short Arm Syndrome’ or Presbyopia

Apart from the typical long or short sightedness that results in aging eyes having to wear glasses, the first time many of us are forced to acknowledge our aging eyes is when we can no longer read the fine print. This is called presbyopia, or ‘short arm syndrome’, since reading material must be held further and further away to focus. This helps for a while, but eventually the arms become ‘too short’ and reading correction in the form of reading glasses, bifocals or contact lenses is needed for close work.

The lens of the eye changes its shape and length to focus on close items, but as we age, the elasticity of the lens deteriorates, causing a gradual decline in the ability of the eyes to focus on close up objects. Many people notice presbyopia around the age of 45, and as well as focusing difficulties, some also experience eye strain and headaches.

Although there is no proven prevention or cure of presbyopia, there are a number of options for minimizing its impact. Some individuals may choose to correct one eye for close up objects and one for further away. This is ‘monovision’. The advantage of this includes very clear distance vision and very clear near vision, although some people feel uncomfortable with the decreased depth perception and occasional fatigue that can occur when doing a specialized task for extended periods.

Other common management options include reading glasses. These are used only for near work (must be taken off to see distance), although often wearing reading glasses (and never having a pair when you need them!) is sometimes just as frustrating as not being able to see things up close.

Multifocal contact lens for aging eyes can offer quite natural vision where distance and near vision are reasonably clear in both eyes, although neither distance nor near vision is perfectly clear, and these are often not suitable for those requiring very high quality distance vision.

Laser vision correction is now a common, safe and predictable way to utilize monovision.

Prospective surgery users should spend time finding a solution that is both comfortable and suits their needs before they make a decision to undergo surgery. The main problem in using laser vision correction in this way is that our near vision prescription changes between the ages of 45 – 55.

Last Reviewed 11/Mar/2014

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Whilst wielding a couple of dumbbells in a gym class in 2003, Kate experienced an epiphany around the lack of accepted best practice guidelines when it came to staying well and avoiding disease. Kate realized that she had no chance of slowing her own aging process unless she became better educated about her options.

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