You’ve probably seen it happen to your parents or grandparents: the seemingly endless rotation of new corrective lenses. It’s no secret that your eye health and vision changes as you age, but have you ever wondered what condition is causing the need for more powerful lenses as you, your parents, or your grandparents grow older?
It’s called presbyopia, and almost every single person develops it at some point in their life. However, just because you can develop presbyopia doesn’t mean you have to live with its effects.
Our ophthalmologists at Vector Eye Centre are proud to offer Calgarians like you a range of solutions to help bring you the sight you deserve. Today, we’re going to shine a light on presbyopia, its causes and symptoms, and how refractive lens exchange surgery can help bring you clearer, crisper vision.
What Is Presbyopia?
Presbyopia is an age-related eye condition that occurs when your eye’s clear, crystalline lens loses flexibility over time, making it difficult to focus on nearby objects.
When you look at something, your lens changes its shape (with the help of ciliary muscles inside your eye) to focus light on your retina, the part of your eye responsible for turning light into neural signals your brain interprets as sight. When you look at something distant, your ciliary muscles relax, flattening and thinning your lens; for something up close, the ciliary muscles contract, and the lens becomes large and round.
Presbyopia causes your lens to stiffen, making it difficult for your ciliary muscles to contract and change your lens’ shape. Presbyopia can develop for many years, and you may not notice symptoms until your 40’s or 50’s.
Other than experiencing blurry near sight, you may also experience:
- Poor vision in dim lighting
Almost everybody develops some degree of presbyopia, but you may have a risk of developing it earlier if you:
- Have diabetes
- Have cardiovascular disease
- Have multiple sclerosis
- Take certain medications like antidepressants, antihistamines, or diuretics
Diagnosing & Managing Presbyopia
Optometrists and ophthalmologists can detect and diagnose presbyopia during a comprehensive eye exam. During the exam, your doctor will test your near vision using tools like an eye chart or a phoropter; a device that tests different lens types to help you achieve clearer vision.
If you’re diagnosed with presbyopia, your doctor may prescribe corrective eyeglasses or contact lenses. Depending on how presbyopia is affecting your vision, and if you already have another refractive error like hyperopia (farsightedness) or myopia (nearsightedness), you may need to wear specialty lenses like:
- Multifocals: lenses with multiple prescriptions separated by sections.
- Progressives: lenses with multiple prescriptions gradually blending into each other.
- Readers: single prescription lenses used for up-close work.
- Monovision contacts: contacts that help one eye see at a distance and the other up close.
How Can Refractive Lens Exchange Surgery Help?
Laser eye procedures, like LASIK and PRK surgery, are common for those looking for a permanent solution to their blurry vision. However, LASIK and PRK only address issues by changing the shape of your corneal tissue rather than addressing the lens, and age-related eye diseases and conditions can also affect your candidacy for these types of surgeries.
A refractive lens exchange (RLE) is a type of eye surgery that directly replaces your natural lens with an artificial intraocular lens (IOL). If you’re over 50 and are looking for a permanent way to reduce or possibly eliminate your need for glasses, RLE might be a great option even if you aren’t a great fit for LASIK or PRK procedures.
The RLE Process
Before our ophthalmologists can recommend RLE surgery, we’ll first perform a comprehensive eye exam to determine if your eyes are healthy enough for surgery and if surgery can correct the symptoms you’re experiencing.
Once we determine if RLE surgery is right for you, we’ll book your appointment and provide you with some information to help prepare you (like not wearing contact lenses for 1 to 3 weeks before your surgery, depending on the type).
During your surgery, your ophthalmologist will numb your eyes with eye drops before making a small incision in your eye to get access to your crystalline lens. Your ophthalmologist then removes the lens and replaces it with an IOL matched to your needs. The procedure generally takes about 15 minutes per eye to complete, but we may recommend separate appointments for each eye.
You could experience some side effects like dry eye or light sensitivity after your surgery, but these are normal to the healing process and you may resume regular activities within a few weeks. It’s important to note that RLE surgery does not guarantee 20/20 vision, and you may still need to wear contacts or glasses to help you achieve the clearest vision possible.
Types of IOLs
Let’s take a look at the real heroes of RLE surgery: intraocular lenses, also known as IOLs. IOLs are responsible for delivering crisp, clear eyesight, and there are several different types we may prescribe depending on what’s best for your vision.
Some of the IOLs we offer include:
- Multifocal IOLs: multifocal lenses have multiple prescriptions to provide clear vision at all distances.
- Toric IOLs: toric lenses can help correct refractive errors caused by astigmatism.
- Monofocal IOLs: monofocals are the most common IOL, providing a single lens prescription.
- Aspheric IOLs: aspheric lenses can help reduce issues with glare and night vision.
RLE Surgery vs. Cataract Surgery: What’s The Difference?
Cataracts are another common eye condition that develops with age. Cataracts cause your crystalline lens to appear hazy, milky, or clouded over time, affecting your visual quality and possibly leading to blindness.
However, cataract surgery can replace cataract lenses with IOLs using a virtually similar process as RLE surgery. The only difference is that your doctor removes a cataract lens during cataract surgery rather than a naturally clear lens.
So, Can You Cure Presbyopia?
Because of how common presbyopia is in adults, there are numerous ways to manage or treat its symptoms. However, the only way to permanently rid yourself of presbyopia is by having the lens removed during RLE surgery.Vector Eye Centre has treated many Calgarians from the North Hill area and beyond, providing solutions for presbyopia, cataracts, glaucoma, and beyond. If you’re struggling to find clear vision as you grow older, contact us or have your optometrist refer you for a consultation with our team today.