Out of focus

Gradual vision loss is normal, but treating it quickly will protect you on the road.

Do you squint to read traffic signs in front of you, but have to hold the newspaper at arm’s length just to read the caption? Nearly 100 percent of people over the age of 45 experience vision loss, and while it’s irreversible without surgery, there are steps you can take to stay safe on the road and prevent further loss.

Presbyopia, or the normal worsening of vision with age, makes it harder to focus and see up close as your lenses thicken and become stiff overtime. While vision loss may set in sooner or later, depending on the person, it will eventually happen to everyone. But merely accepting it as a rite of passage and trying to tough it out won’t work, so consider several treatment options if you feel your vision may be weakening.

First, have an eye exam immediately. Keeping tabs on your vision is especially important for truckers, who depend on their eyes to get them safely to their destinations every day. Your doctor can assess your vision and recommend reading glasses, contacts or laser surgery. Forgoing an eye exam could result in headaches, and you could risk missing a serious problem, like glaucoma, that can be treated in time.

Presbyopia can be corrected with glasses or contact lenses. If you didn’t need glasses before you noticed blurriness or weakened vision, you may only need reading glasses for close work. You can buy glasses without a prescription at a local drugstore by trying on different strengths and choosing the one that best works for you.

But most people do not have the same prescription in both eyes, and without lenses tailored specifically for you, you run the risk of buying glasses that can cause headaches, eyestrain and even nausea. If you are going to buy drugstore glasses, purchase high-quality glasses without bubbles, scratches or defects.

Prescription lenses can be made for each individual based on his or her needs. Full reading glasses are for people who spend a lot of time reading close up, but half reading glasses are also available for people who want the flexibility of being able to look down at reading material and then up at people, the road or anything else without the prescription.

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Also available are tinted reading glasses that may provide UV protection from the sun; for example, the tinted bifocal contains a nonprescription upper half for looking into the distance and a reading prescription in the lower half for seeing close up. Whether you need bifocals or not depends on your doctor’s assessment of your vision.

If you would rather wear contact lenses, your doctor can prescribe a prescription and type, such as soft or hard, that will fit your needs.

People experiencing vision loss are also turning to laser surgery to correct vision loss. LASIK surgery is a process that uses lasers to correct and restore vision without using eyeglasses or contacts. For more information about LASIK surgery, check out this site.

If you think you are a little too young to be experiencing age-onset vision loss, you may have a more specific problem. If you see distant objects more clearly than close objects, you are farsighted, or suffer from hyperopia. You may need no treatment for mild farsightedness, but moderate to severe farsightedness can be corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses. LASIK surgery is also an option.

If you see close objects better than distant objects, you are nearsighted, or suffer from myopia. If you squint and hold reading material very close to your face, you probably have a normal case of nearsightedness. This also can be corrected with eyeglasses, contacts or LASIK surgery.

Be sure to have a check-up at least every two years to measure vision loss or change prescriptions.

Glossary of Vision Loss
They’re big words, but they’re easy to understand. “Opia” means a vision condition, and the words tacked on the front tell you what kind.

Presbyopia – Literally “old man” vision, it’s the natural, gradual worsening of vision over time.

Hyperopia – Also known as farsightedness, it causes visual images to focus behind the retina, making it easier to see distant objects than nearby ones.

Myopia – Also known as nearsightedness, it causes visual images to focus before the retina, making it easier to see nearby objects than distant ones.

Another common kind of vision impairment is astigmatism, which is usually caused by an irregular cornea.