The increased use of computers in recent years has caused presbyopia — a common vision condition that normally affects people over 40 years old — to be diagnosed at a younger age, an ophthalmologist said yesterday.
Presbyopia is a condition where the eye gradually loses its ability to focus on close objects.
“I now have patients in their 30s coming to me with symptoms of presbyopia,” said James Liau (廖士傑), chief of the Shu-Tien Ophthalmology Clinic.
Common symptoms include difficulty reading under low lighting, experiencing pain in the eyebrow area after reading for long periods of time and momentarily blurred vision when switching between looking at far and near objects, Liau said.
“[People with severe presbyopia] say their arms have become too short, because they must hold whatever they are reading at farther and farther distances,” he said.
While people with myopia, or nearsightedness, may not develop presbyopia until they are as old as 50, it will eventually develop as one gets older, similar to graying hair.
Various factors and habits could cause presbyopia to develop at a younger age than normal, such as hyperopia, or farsightedness, poor reading habits and using the computer for long periods of time without resting, Liau said.
The most common way of dealing with presbyopia is corrective lenses, available as eyeglasses or contact lenses.
As the condition becomes more advanced, the prescription needs to be changed in order to “catch up” with the worsening abilities of the eye, Liau said.
When presbyopia becomes severe, a method called monovision can be used, he said.
Monovision involves the patient using contact lenses to correct one eye for near vision and the other for far vision.
“The brain will automatically filter and choose the correct image perceived by both eyes,” Liau said.
However, some patients using the monovision method say they have difficulty adjusting because the method affects depth perception, making it harder to judge whether something is near or far, he said.
The US Food and Drug Administration is researching techniques to cure presbyopia through surgical techniques.
If surgical reversal of presbyopia were approved, patients would not need to wear corrective lenses, Liau said.
Even though presbyopia cannot be prevented, it can be delayed by habits such as improving reading conditions, letting the eyes rest for three minutes every 30 minutes when using computers, massaging the temples, consuming dark-colored vegetables — such as tomatoes and carrots — and wearing sunglasses to avoid ultraviolet exposure, Liau said.