Getting older is something most of us don’t want to address. Not only does your body begin to slowly betray you, but often times, other things start to go as well – like your eye sight. New research has suggested that in addition to age-related presbyopia, an eye problem that makes it difficult to see things up close, the condition might be spurred on faster by an object you use every day – your smartphone.
What Is Presbyopia?
As we get older, things tend to break down – your eyes included. Presbyopia, until very recently, was typically a condition we saw in patients at a more advanced age. The lens of your eye is elastic, enabling it to change shape very quickly so that you can focus on things different distances away. As we get older, starting around our mid-40s, this elasticity reduces. The more rigid your lens is, the more difficult it is to focus up close, resulting in presbyopia. While this used to be a condition we associated with aging, there seems to be a connection now between presbyopia and the use of handheld electronics such as tablets and smart phones. As a result we’re seeing presbyopia developing in patients at younger ages.
Put the Phone Down!
If you work in an office, chances are you’ve been told it’s essential to take breaks from the computer screen over the course of your day. It’s no secret that staring at your monitor for hours on end can lead to serious eye strain as well as headaches. Most researchers found that taking a break anywhere from 10-15 minutes per hour yields the best results for your eyes. As it turns out, that tiny screen in your hand isn’t much different. In fact, research has found that people are often spending more hours per day now looking at their phone screens than their computer screens, and that staring at a smart phone for too long can have the same repercussions for your eyes that your computer screen does, including the early onset of presbyopia. Where the majority of presbyopia cases used to be found in people more than 40 years old, some doctors are reporting a recent surge in cases found in 20 to 30 year olds.
How to Prevent – or Treat – Presbyopia
While there isn’t much you can do to prevent age-related presbyopia, there are some things you might be able to do to prevent the early onset of it. Most importantly, take a break from your phone (or any other handheld electronic device) to rest your eyes.
Knowing the early warning signs can help you postpone the condition. Notify your doctor if you’re experiencing:
- Trouble focusing on reading material at an arm’s length away
- Trouble reading small print
- Trouble making out things in front of you
Your doctor might recommend eye exercises, or switching to a different kind of screen. If you already have presbyopia, the problem can largely be controlled by bifocal contacts or glasses.
Dr. Matthew Wilkening is an optometrist at Kelsey-Seybold’s Meyerland Plaza Clinic. He’s accepting new patients and welcomes the opportunity to help patients maintain or improve their vision. He’s a certified Therapeutic Optometrist and Optometric Glaucoma Specialist.