Feature Archive

Bye Bye Bifocals

Baby boomers say hello to high-tech solutions. For these aging 30-somethings, there are more and better ways to sharpen their eyesight.

By John Cutter
WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Michael Smith

First, the print in the telephone book seems to get smaller. Then, the newpaper text turns fuzzy. Worse yet, you discover one evening that you can't read the menu in your favorite restaurant.

If these experiences sound familiar -- and you happen to be 40-something -- you're not alone. Many members of the boomer generation are passing through the prime years for presbyopia (meaning ''aging eyes"). This loss of focusing ability can start as early as 35 or as late as 50. Usually, it stops progressing about age 60.

When younger, many boomers might have worn granny glasses as a fashion statement. But now reading glasses, or old-fashioned bifocals, don't seem quite as hip, and many visually impaired people in their 40s are turning to other alternatives, such as bifocal contact lenses or eye surgery. Soon there may be additional options, as companies and researchers race to find other alternatives to keep boomers feeling young.

How the Eye Works

To understand presbyopia, you need to understand how the eye works. In order to focus light from different distances properly onto the retina -- which acts like the film in a camera and "develops" the images we see -- the lens of the human eye adjusts its shape as it responds to tiny muscles in the eye. The more the lens can be "bent" by the muscles, the closer up the eye can focus.