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Why can’t I see up close with my glasses anymore?

By Joel Hunter, MD | 11/29/18 7:01 AM
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So, you’ve worn glasses (or contacts) for most of your life. And that was fine. It would’ve been nicer not having to deal with them at all, but since you’ve had them for so long, it isn’t something you’ve spent too much time thinking about. Most people who are near-sighted (myopic) like yourself, start needing glasses sometime during the K-12 years of schooling. You’ve had a long time to get used to them.

Then, suddenly, you’re noticing that you can’t see well up close with your glasses on or your contacts in. It’s a significantly more annoying problem than just needing glasses in the first place. For one, near vision was the one thing you’re really good at! It was never an issue. In fact, it’s still not if you lift up your glasses to read things. But that’s more frustrating – or maybe just harder to ignore – than just putting on your glasses at the beginning of the day and forgetting about them.

What happened?

Well, unfortunately, it was your biological fate. More accurately, it the biological fate of all humans. The lens inside our eyes gets new layers every year. It’s like a clear version of what happens when a tree lays down new rings each year. And, much like a tree, the layers in the middle are more and more densely packed. The lens gets stiff. It gets stuck.

The reason this rigidity of the lens has such an impact on us is because the flexibility of the lens is such a key feature to how our eyes work. It takes less focusing power (measured in a unit called diopters) to focus on something far away than it does to focus up close. If you have a young, flexible lens, you can look out across a field and then back down to the book in your hand. Your natural lens will automatically autofocus and add the exact right number of diopters to see the book clearly.

Once the lens becomes stiff and stuck in the distance, the autofocus is gone. This usually happens somewhere between age 42 and 48. If it happens earlier, it doesn’t necessarily mean your eye is less healthy, it just means that your glasses prescription was probably too strong. You’re actually lucky if that’s the case because getting a correct prescription (instead of the current too-strong prescription) can add a couple of years of seeing distance and near with your glasses.

What's the solution?

Once the fight is over, and it always ends sometime, there’s no way to see distance and near with the same prescription. You either need to take your glasses off to read or get bifocals. There are good options for you if that’s the case! So that’s good news in the middle of all this doom and gloom about aging. There are better optics available in glasses than ever before to help make reading easy again, despite the need for bifocals. And if you’re so inclined, you just may be a candidate for LASIK. It’s an underappreciated, wonderful secret that LASIK can remove the need for glasses for near and far. If you’re wondering if that applies to you, you should come see if you’re a candidate! I’m rooting for you.

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These articles are brought to you by Hunter Vision. We help people in Orlando discover life after glasses and contacts.
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