Help! I Can’t Read Small Print Anymore!

July 24, 2019

Go go gadget – arms! Do you find yourself holding objects farther away to read something? How about peeking beneath or above your glasses or just outright taking them off to read? If so, you are not alone! Presbyopia is a natural process that begins around age 40, but there are ways to alleviate the difficulty reading small print.


What is presbyopia?

Presbyopia is an inevitable process that starts around age 40. The inability to read small print gradually worsens until it plateaus around age 60. Presbyopia can have an even earlier onset in some individuals.  These changes are related to the focusing system of the eyes. Like a camera lens, the ocular lens inside the eye changes shape based on how far away the object is from the eye. It takes a greater amount of focusing power to read something 1 foot away versus 5 feet. (Hence, the go go gadget arms!)

Over time, the ocular lens becomes rigid and cannot flex or change its shape as it once did. This is when one might start noticing the lack of clarity when reading small print. The use of magnifiers in glasses or contacts compensates for the slowing focusing system. Extra light on the reading material can help prolong the need for reading glasses, but this is only a temporary fix. Other symptoms may include headaches, eyestrain, and visual fatigue.


What are the options for glasses?

  1. Progressive lenses

This is the most popular and convenient route when it comes to glasses. More commonly known as a “no-line bifocal,” progressives can be worn full-time to provide clear distance, intermediate, and near vision. The top part of the glasses has the distance prescription, while the middle is designed for computer, and the bottom for near reading. The majority of people have excellent success with this form of glasses, especially with the latest technology in progressive lens designs.

  1. Bifocals

Although not as common since the refinement of progressives, lined bifocals are still an available option. There is a visible line in the lower half of the glasses, which delineates the two prescriptions. The top part of the lens is for distance and the segment below the line is for reading at near. This option is good for people who were not able to adapt to progressives. Since there is not a gradual change between the distance and near prescriptions, there is not a corrective zone for intermediate or computer vision. This is the biggest complaint among bifocal wearers. There are trifocals available with an intermediate section, however, it can be difficult to utilize.

  1. Computer glasses

For those who spend much of their time in front of a computer and/or doing paperwork, this pair of “occupational” glasses is ideal. The lenses can either be single vision glasses with an intermediate prescription or progressive lenses (top part for computer and bottom for reading at near). Regardless of the exact lens type, these glasses will help reduce eyestrain at near, especially for early presbyopes.

  1. Reading glasses

This option provides clear vision at near, but cannot be worn for distance. If wearing reading glasses, one must either take them off or look above them for seeing in the distance. Some people prefer this option if doing an extensive amount of reading at one time. On the other hand, it can be a burden to always have a pair of reading glasses handy.


Can I wear contacts?


There are multifocal contact lenses that function similarly to progressive glasses. Multifocal contacts allow a person to see clearly at all distances with no effort in determining which part of the contact needs to be used. Our amazing brains are able to focus through the necessary aspect of the contact, while ignoring the irrelevant part based on the distance one is looking.

Before multifocal contacts, monovision was the traditional method of providing a reading prescription while maintaining distance vision. With monovision, one eye has clear distance vision and the other sees well up close. Theoretically when both eyes are working together, vision should then be good at distance and near. The downfall with monovision is losing depth perception and possibly intermediate/computer clarity.

The last option is to wear reading glasses over the contacts for near. Again, this can become a nuisance if having to take them on and off throughout the day.


Why can I read better without my glasses?

Individuals with myopia, or nearsightedness, might be surprised to discover they can readbetter without their normal, distance vision glasses. Myopic people have eyes that are naturally “too strong” for distance, which act as magnifiers at near. Although this can be convenient at times, it can also be very disruptive to constantly be putting glasses on and off.


If you’re having trouble reading print that you were once able to see, schedule an appointment with one of our three doctors. We ensure to provide you with the best treatment options for your particular needs, so you’ll be back to reading clearly in no time!