If you’re over 40, it’s normal to start having a bit of trouble reading things up close. An OPSM optometrist explains why – and what you can do.
Do you find yourself extending your arm out to read your phone, or
struggling to read the restaurant menu in dim lighting?
If you’re over 40, this is likely to be a sign of presbyopia – a gradual
reduction of your eyes’ ability to focus on objects up close as you get
What exactly is presbyopia? And what can you do about it? OPSM optometrist
Elizabeth Kodari explains a few things you need to know.
What is presbyopia?
Presbyopia is a natural part of ageing, and there is no known way to prevent
it, Kodari says.1
“With time, the muscles that surround the natural lens of your eye become
less flexible and elastic,” she says.
“This stiffening means your eyes are no longer able to change shape as
easily and focus on objects up close.”
Signs of presbyopia
People often begin to notice these vision changes in their 40s, and it
usually continues to worsen until around the age of 65.1
A few signs Kodari says you might notice include:
Blurry vision up close
Eye strain after prolonged close work
Holding reading material further away
Difficulty reading in low light
Needing to increase font size on your digital devices
Headaches and tiredness from the strain of focusing your eyes
“If you notice any of these signs, it’s a good idea to book in an eye check
with an optometrist,” Kodari says.
How glasses and contacts can help
The good news is presbyopia can usually be easily corrected with
glasses or contact lenses.1
“By focusing light before it reaches the lens of the eye, glasses can help
us see clearly up close,” Kodari explains.
“Besides simple reading glasses, there are different type of lenses such as
multifocal and occupational lenses to help correct for a range of
“Contact lenses can also help correct presbyopia with multifocal and
monovision lens options. Your optometrist will be able to advise which
option is best for you.”
Can you just get over-the-counter reading glasses?
You will find cheap pairs of ready-made reading glasses available at
chemists, service stations and online. These are designed to magnify things
in front of you, and may be a suitable option for some people.2
However, Kodari says it’s better if you can see an optometrist to make sure
you have the correct prescription and fit for your individual needs.
“If your reading glasses are too strong, this may cause headaches and eye
strain,” she says.
“Other factors such as the position of the eyes, distance between our
pupils and the fit of the frames can all have an impact on your vision and
eye comfort too.”
Seeing an optometrist also gives you the opportunity to check for signs of
eye health problems, which is particularly important as you get older.3
Plus, if you have
extras cover that includes optical, you can get benefits back on prescription glasses and contacts, helping
you manage the costs.
Tips for healthy eyes and vision
So what else can you do to look after your eyes? Kodari shares a few tips:
Get an eye check every two years
(or more frequently if recommended by your optometrist). Common ageing
eye conditions such as glaucoma and macular degeneration often have no
symptoms until they’re quite advanced, so regular eye screening is the
best way to catch them early.4
Give your eyes a rest from screens.
“When using digital devices, every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break
from your screen and focus on an object far away to help your
eyes relax and adjust focus,” Kodari suggests.5
“It’s important to protect our eyes from the harmful effects of
ultraviolet radiation (UV), which can increase our risk of developing
eye conditions such as cataracts, pterygium, and skin cancers.”6
Eat a healthy diet.
“A healthy, balanced diet rich in nutrients including omega-3s, lutein
and vitamins A, C and E is great for your eye health,” Kodari says.”7
Know your family history.
“Some eye conditions can be genetic. Let your optometrist know if you
have a family history of any eye conditions.”8
Take a look at HBF optical cover
See clearly and look great. With HBF extras, you can get 100% back on prescription glasses and contacts, up to your annual limit.
Find out more
1Presbyopia – healthdirect
2Is it okay to buy glasses from the chemist or service station? –
Good Vision for Life (Optometry Australia) (2021)
3What is an eye test? –
4The ageing eye conditions you need to know about –
Centre for Eye Research Australia
5Screen time and your eye health – OPSM
6Sun safety for your eyes –
Centre for Eye Research Australia (2020)
7What’s cooking good looking –
Good Vision for Life (Optometry Australia) (2020)
8Booking an eye test –
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