Presbyopia (Greek word "presbys" (πρ?σβυς), meaning "old person") describes the condition where the eye exhibits a progressively diminished ability to focus on near objects with age. Presbyopia's exact mechanisms are not known with certainty, however, the research evidence most strongly supports a loss of elasticity of the crystalline lens, although changes in the lens's curvature from continual growth and loss of power of the ciliary muscles (the muscles that bend and straighten the lens) have also been postulated as its cause.
Similar to grey hair and wrinkles, presbyopia is a symptom caused by the natural course of aging. The first symptoms (described below) are usually first noticed between the ages of 40-50. The ability to focus on near objects declines throughout life, from an accommodation of about 20 dioptres (ability to focus at 50 mm away) in a child to 10 dioptres at 25 (100 mm) and leveling off at 0.5 to 1 dioptre at age 60 (ability to focus down to 1-2 meters only).
The first symptoms most people notice are, difficulty reading fine print, particularly in low light conditions, eyestrain when reading for long periods, blur at near or momentarily blurred vision when transitioning between viewing distances. Many advanced presbyopes complain that their arms have become "too short" to hold reading material at a comfortable distance.
Presbyopia, like other focus defects, becomes much less noticeable in bright sunlight. This is not the result of any mysterious 'healing effect' but just the consequence of the iris closing to a pinhole, so that depth of focus, regardless of actual ability to focus, is greatly enhanced, as in a pinhole camera which produces images without any lens at all. Another way of putting this is to say that the circle of confusion, or blurredness of image, is reduced, without improving focusing.
A delayed onset of seeking correction for presbyopia has been found among those with certain professions and those with miotic pupils. In particular, farmers and housewives seek correction later, whereas service workers and construction workers seek eyesight correction earlier.
Presbyopia is not routinely curable - though tentative steps toward a possible cure suggest that this may be possible - but the loss of focusing ability can be compensated for by corrective lenses including eyeglasses or contact lenses. In subjects with other refractory problems, Convex lenses are used. In some cases, the addition of bifocals to an existing lens prescription is sufficient. As the ability to change focus worsens, the prescription needs to be changed accordingly.
Around the age of 65, the eyes have usually lost most of their elasticity. However, it will still be possible to read with the help of the appropriate prescription. Some may find it necessary to hold reading materials farther away, or require larger print and more light to read by. People who do not need glasses for distance vision may only need half glasses or reading glasses. Another approach is TruFocals, where the user moves a slider to choose between focusing on near and far objects.
In order to reduce the need for bifocals or reading glasses, some people choose contact lenses to correct one eye for near and one eye for far with a method called "monovision". Monovision sometimes interferes with depth perception. There are also newer bifocal or multifocal contact lenses that attempt to correct both near and far vision with the same lens.
New surgical procedures may also provide solutions for those who do not want to wear glasses or contacts, including the implantation of accommodative intraocular lenses (IOLs).