Are Reading Glasses Inevitable?

First it become difficult to read menus in dimply lit restaurants. Then you notice that you need to hold the newspaper further away. Next you begin to wonder why they print books and magazines using such small fonts. You are experiencing the beginning of presbyopia the need for reading glasses.
The need for reading glasses starts in your mid 40's. It is considered inevitable that you will need reading glasses in your early 50's. The main theories upon which this is based originated with the Dutch ophthalmologist Donders (1863) who suggested that the cilliar muscle around the lens might lose its strength as you get older. German scientist Helmholtz (1866) suggested that the lens might become harder as you get older, so it gradually lost its ability to focus.
The above theories are what you are told when you ask why do I need reading glasses? At age 35 your lens has lost 50% of its flexibility, at 40 your lens has lost 75% and if you are over 50 years old your lens is supposed to be rock hard and you need reading glasses for the rest of your life.
However, there are some problems with this explanation. First of all modern studies, Ellis et al. (1995) have concluded that the cilliar muscle actually has more strength than needed. Researchers estimated that your cilliar muscle would have zero power at age 120. The hardening of the lens is unlikely since it is mostly water. The biggest problem with the hard lens theory is the fact that the lens doubles its thickness from age 20 to age 80. If the eyes were obeying the rules of optics then the eyes should become more near sighted. The thicker the lens the shorter the focal length.
Theories and explanations are all very good. However, in practice presbyopia is quite easy to correct naturally. Over the last 12 years I have taught thousands of people how to get rid of their reading glasses. Presbyopia has more to do with lack of flexibility than age.

There are three main problems with presbyopia.

  • Your near point of clear vision drifts out. You should be able to see 1 mm high print 15 cm from your eyes crystal clear. You experience this when your arms are not long enough for you to read.
  • The print size you can read keep going up. Some times to the point where you can even read the headlines on the newspaper.
  • You ability to read in different light conditions deteriorate. It starts in the restaurant where the light is to dim for you to read the menu.

Do you have presbyopia?

Presbyopia develops around the age 45 when you begin to have difficulty reading small print.
Normally, your distance vision is perfect. Your arms are just not long enough.
If you have 20/20 vision for reading then you should be able to read these lines:
20/50 A b C d E f G h I j K 1 3 5 7 9 2 4 6 8
20/40 A b C d E f G h I j K 1 3 5 7 9 2 4 6 8
20/30 A b C d E f G h I j K 1 3 5 7 9 2 4 6 8 Your reading vision may be Ok for most situations, however,
you may have difficulty in low light situations
20/25 A b C d E f G h I j K 1 3 5 7 9 2 4 6 8 Your reading vision is pretty good. Just a fraction below the optimum.
20/20 A b C d E f G h I j K 1 3 5 7 9 2 4 6 8 Congratulations you have perfect near point reading vision.
Look at the lines above and notice which line you can read at normal reading distance.
Also check if there is a difference between the two eyes by closing one eye and then the other. This way you will discover if there is a difference between your eyes.

Here is what to do:

  1. Use your mobile phone or your watch and find out how close you can read the display absolutely clear begin to slowly move the phone back and forth allowing your eyes to focus closer and closer. Alternately, whenever you read something, slowly move the page back and forth encouraging your eyes to read clearly closer and closer. Do this for about a minute now and then.
  2. Read smaller and smaller print.
    Next you need to learn to read smaller and smaller print. Use the reading exercise box on this page. 

    First find out which number you can read without glasses.
    Turn the magazine upside down and scan the white space between the lines from top to bottom.
    Turn the magazine right side up and check if you can read smaller print.
  3. Do this exercise in good daylight. It is easier because daylight has all the colours of the rainbow and you get better results.
  4. Practice reading in different light conditions.

Do the smaller and smaller reading exercise in different light conditions. Fluorescent light is the most difficult to read in, so practice in this light as well. You want to be able to read small print with just one candle.
If there is a difference between your eyes do the exercise with the eye that reads the furthest away. The goal is to have both eyes read at the same distance. Finally you want to be able to read small print as close to 15 cm from your eyes as possible.

Do reading glasses damage your eyes?

There is no scientific evidence that this is the case. Perhaps because nobody have studied it. However, most people have experienced that after starting to use reading glasses. A week later you discover that all of a sudden you can't read text you could read perfectly well before, but now you can't read it without reading glasses.
Over the next few years your reading glasses will most likely become stronger and stronger. The next milestone is that you can't drive without glasses. When your reading glasses reach + 2.5 diopters your vision begin to change and soon there is nothing you can see clearly. Everything has a fuzz around the edges.
There is no biological reason why you should not be reading your 80th birthday cards without glasses. Keep your eyes in shape and enjoy reading naturally without glasses.

Leo Angart


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