Age related vision loss, presbyopia. How to use eyeglasses!
People with eyeglasses have surrounded me all my life. We can see them everywhere, from small children to older people. Nothing spectacular about that, and in my mind I have thought that if you need eyeglasses, you get them, use them and the problem is solved! Maybe I have been a bit naïve but I have always thought that using eyeglasses is something normal and easy. But now when I for the first time in my life need to wear eyeglasses I found it to be very complicated. In fact, I have learned that it is everything but easy to wear eyeglasses. You don’t just put them on your nose and walk away happy and everything is fine. Far from it! There are so much that needs to be learned, and you need to learn it again but in another way!
Since I have very little knowledge of this subject as a whole I only write about what I know about the age related vision loss: the presbyopia which is the gradual loss of the ability of the eye to clearly see objects at different distances due to loss of elasticity in the lens of the eye. It typically occurs in middle and old age and is very common. And the focus will be about the small things a first time buyer of eyeglasses need to know and sums up what I wish I had known before I started to use eyeglasses for the first time.
Your arms aren’t going to extend no matter how hard you try!
This is the first sign that you are starting to loose your vision. It starts without you knowing about it and since it proceed in small steps it will probably take a while before you even notice it. Because of the slow deterioration you will unconsciously try to compensate for the vision loss by moving what you reed further away from you. Most of us persist doing this for as long as possible and try to extend further and further away from your eyes while reading. At the same time you start to strain your eyes and force them to focus. The problem with age related vision loss is that it is possible to do this in the beginning since the problem is the eye lens needs time to switch from long to short distances because of reduced movement ability in the eye. I kept it up for almost two years and I also created a new skill: I became a master of guessing while reading!
In the end you will end up with tired eyes and also a nagging headache. By then, you know you need glasses!
What kind of eyeglasses do you need to begin with?
When you brain slowly starts to accept that your arms are to short and that you do need glasses comes the next question! What kind of eyeglasses should you buy? I guess many in the same situation as me a bit ashamed goes to the nearest gas station or a shop and buy those cheap reading glasses. And “Eureka” the problem is solved, because you should only be wearing them while you read, right?
This will be okay for a time but that is all it is. It will buy you time! And this can be a good thing because most of us need this time to adapt to this new aid! You can get by with those cheap reading glasses or you could go to an optometrist and get reading glasses that are optimised for you. Personally I did both, and if you are planning to go to the optician please read about the first visit to the optician below before you go!
To have something hanging on your face!
Those of you that have been using glasses all your life probably think this is a little ridicules and you have become used to have glasses on. It has become a part of who you are even if it wasn’t so much easier for you either in the beginning. I can only speak for myself and from others that I have talked to and I found the necessity to wear glasses almost impossible. To me it felt as if I walked around with a big slug on my nose, something that shouldn’t be there and something that felt so unpleasant. To add to the problem I didn’t think it suited me either. Every time I looked in the mirror I thought: Oh my, what is that! How ugly!
For those of you that haven’t tried yet I can say that it takes a while getting use to. The good thing is of course that you now can read but in the beginning this doesn’t really make up for the inconvenient it means to wear them. The glasses are sliding about on you nose and you also see the glasses close in front of you which is annoying at first because you are not used too have something so close in front of your eyes.
If you get glasses from an optician these problem will be a bit smaller because they will fit your head and face better but you will still not be used to have something hanging on your face. But hang in there because it will get better with time!
So be aware of these traps when you go to the first eye vision test to buy eyeglasses:
- You do have vision problems! (Otherwise you wouldn’t be there at all)
- You do need eyeglasses! (Maybe not all the time but you will buy a pair)
- Tell what you see right away! Don’t hesitate and let your eyes adjust to what you see.
- Don’t guess! Because if you do you will have to continue to guess and that solution is already tried and also rejected. You don’t want to guess any more!
- If you do guess, tell the optician when you do. By telling, he/she can get a clearer picture of your vision ability.
The first visit to the optician!
You have probably experienced an eye vision test before in order to check if your sight was good as a child or before you got a license or something. So you are probably familiar with the procedure. But an eye vision test that you do when you need glasses is somewhat different because now you take the vision test because you don’t see properly!
You have to understand this and have a total different approach to the eye vision test. That’s the reason you are here, to buy glasses, not getting the thumbs up that your vision is as good as ever before! And there is a great difference between the two! I don’t know why, but at my first vision test I somehow thought that the optician would say:
Your sight is only a little bit decreased but you don’t need glasses yet!
So therefor I did a bit of guessing during the eye vision test and as I said I am really good at it! Many letters have such a distinct shape that even if you don’t see them clear you can easily guess what they are. Take for example the letters A, T, V, or K. They all have very special shape and can easily be distinguished from each other. The letters with more round shapes is a bigger problem and the letters D, O and B are not so easy to distinguished by guessing. Every optician knows this but it is good if also you are aware of it. Another problem is that if you give the eye a little time to adjust to the distance, those unclear letters will get a little clearer so you can guess what they are.
As I said earlier you can probably get by very well with reading glasses for a while, a year or maybe more. But eventually you will encounter problems to read even with glasses. You can get a new pair of glasses with stronger enlarging but then you will have a new problem.
You need eyeglasses in your everyday life!
The day will come when you feel so tired of moving the glasses up and down, on and off. Personally I used my husband as my eyes when we where shopping together. I couldn’t see the labels or the price unless the label was really big. In my experience the labels somehow becomes smaller and smaller!
So you will go back to the optician for a new eye vision test and now you know the procedure quite well. And you will probably end up with bifocals or progressives.
Now starts a new era in you life! You will have a big hole in your budget and you will have learned many new things that all will be a part of your glasses. Vision window, anti-reflection, insurance, Polaroid, surface treatment, bifocals, progressives and of course glasses and spectacle frames.
To move the eyeglasses on and off, up and down!
The problem with reading eyeglasses is that they are just that: reading eyeglasses! This means that you will only be able to see at a short range with them, and everything in a distance of 1 meter or further away will be blurred. So now you will have another problem: you will have to put them on and take them off like a maniac. Your glasses will never be where you want them, and you will create a new moving pattern that you have never done before. Many people are pretty good at it and do this in a sort of mechanical way. But I think it looks as a rather nervous behaviour because their hands are constantly moving and they hold the glasses in their hands and almost use them as a pointer. Your glasses will be everywhere: on your head, in your hand and on your nose. You will use them as a pointer, you will suck on the bows and you will never really know where they are. Unless you submit totally and get a “senile string” as we call them in Sweden. A senile string is a string that you attach to the spectacle frames and put around your neck: a eyewear retainer. It is practical but somehow I don’t think that many first time users want to have them!
So, prepare your self for a new partner in life: your eyeglasses!
- Let it take time! Hang in there because it will get better!
- Tell people in your surrounding about your problems and describe the problems for them. Not everyone is familiar with what it means to have progressive eyeglasses. They will notice that something isn’t right anyway so it’s better to tell them the reason for your clumsiness!
- Start wearing the eyeglasses shorter periods of time in the beginning and increase the time slowly.
- You must learn to move your head instead of your eyes! This is a bit tricky since with age we have become very used to simply move our eyes when reading a text. This isn’t going to work any more because progressives and bifocals only have a smaller area for short distance sight in the lower part of the glass. So you have to move your head in smaller moves horizontally while you read.
- To look down at the ground or at the floor means that you will have to move your head vertically instead. I noticed that I must have lived my entire life holding my nose up in the air but that had to change! At least one benefit with wearing progressives!
Progressives or bifocals
With the aid of progressives or bifocals you will be able to see on both long and short distance and your whimsical life with reading glasses are reduced, but not over! I will get back to the reading glasses later but for now lets focus on the bifocals.
Because it is just what you have to do: you must learn to focus in a new way than before.
And your brain must get used to a different way of eye movement. This is really tricky, and my optometrist told me it can take as long as two three months for some people to get it right. And for some people it isn’t such a big problem. You better be prepared for problems like nausea, motion sickness and at first you will get very tired both in your eyes and in your brain.
Start wearing the bifocals during shorter time in the beginning and exceed the time slowly. You will stumble, fumble, wobble and generally behave as if you were drunk! To grab a glass on a table can result in that you instead of grabbing it knock it to the floor. Going in stairs is another thing that can be difficult because your ability to estimate distance is suddenly wrong.
Eventually both you and your brain will adapt to this new way to see. But it takes a bit of practise.
Oh, spectacle frames! This is a real jungle! How on Earth are you supposed to pick the right pair in all those different designs, forms and shapes? The truth is: you will probably not pick the best pair! You will definitely need some help, and most of all, you will need plenty of time!
Try to ignore all other people in the shop and focus only on your self and the frames. Test them over and over again and when you find a few frames that you think suit you try them again. Ask if you can borrow them for a couple of days and bring them home with you. Then you can ask your friends and sort of get used to them your self. Because you will have to wear them day in and day out and you will have to wear them for several years so it is really important that you like them. Another difficulty is that progressive spectacles must also fit your face and your head in a special way because the glasses have to sit pretty close to your cheeks if you should be able to see properly. Let the optician help you with that part because you will not be able to judge that by your self. So be prepared for the risk that your favourite frames isn’t going to work for progressives.
The reading glasses!
No, I am sorry but you will not be able to throw them away for good! You will still need them because it can be a bit difficult to lie down and read. If you are used to reed before going to sleep you will need reading glasses.
Other types of spectacles that you might need!
Some people also have difficulties to use the progressives when they do many hours in front of the computer screen. Computers are a special case and you might need a pair of terminal glasses that are optimized for computer screens.
Another area that needs to be taken care of is outdoors in the sun when you need sunglasses. Either you can incorporate the sunglasses in your progressives or you might want another pair. Sunglasses usually looks quite different from ordinary glasses and if you want the real look and you want to be able to read you will have to by another pair of progressive sunglasses.
So, you will be able to have excellent vision but it comes at a cost both financial and otherwise. And you will have to get used to have several different glasses for different environments as well as your reading glasses. Personally I now have three spectacles: progressive sunglasses, progressives and reading glasses. I am not sure yet, but maybe I need another pair of eyeglasses to use at work.
You will eventually get over all the initial inconvenience and you will have good eyesight again.
But remember that no matter how good your eyeglasses are you will never get back to how it was before. It is a compromise and you will have to live with it.