How do you know when you’ve reached middle age? Adam Gordon, O.D., has the answer: When you experience the effects of presbyopia — that gradual loss of ability to focus actively on nearby objects. It’s a natural, albeit annoying, part of aging that affects more than 90 million Americans.
“You’ll likely become aware of presbyopia when you need to hold print at arm’s length in order to read it,” Gordon says. “And there’s no getting around it. This happens to just about everyone at some point in their life, even those who never have had a vision problem before.”
|Adam Gordon shows new lenses that UAB Eye Care has been prescribing to patients suffering from presbyopia, a gradual loss of ability to focus on nearby objects.
Reading glasses, progressive addition lenses or bifocals have been the best options for correcting presbyopia, but new contact lenses being tested by UAB Eye Care are proving to be a boon to Baby Boomers in the Birmingham area.
“Many of our patients have been wearing contact lenses for years, and they would prefer to continue doing that and not have to switch to reading glasses,” Gordon says. “And the contact-lens manufacturers have developed reasonably good, multifocal contact-lens designs for these presbyopic patients. Several of the largest manufacturers are developing new, improved versions of these multifocal, soft contact lenses, and our patients really like them.”
UAB Eye Care has been testing lenses in its Cornea Contact Lens Clinic from Vistakon during the past six months and will test lenses from CIBA Vision later this summer. Patients are able to wear the lenses before they’ve been released and marketed nationwide.
“It’s been great for our patients and also for our students and faculty,” Gordon says. “It’s given our students a chance to work with these new designs and materials before they graduate and get into practice. They are in the forefront with the latest in contact-lens technology.”
Another option for patients
A basic eye exam can confirm presbyopia. The condition traditionally has been corrected with eyeglasses or a contact lens technique called monovision, where one eye is corrected for distance vision and the other eye corrected for reading vision.
“It sounds weird,” Gordon says of monovision, “but many people have adapted to this setup; however, there are problems with it.”
One of the problems is that one eye is always blurry. Other side-effects are depth-perception problems and headaches. Fortunately, technology now is giving patients new options.
Multifocal soft lenses have been available for almost two decades, but Gordon says eye doctors have been reluctant to embrace them until recently. Limitations with the technology did not make them desirable when they first were introduced. Many people experienced so much vision distortion that it wasn’t worth the effort.
The technology has made great strides in the past 10 years, Gordon says. Many contact lenses now are made with silicone hydrogel polymers and are much healthier for the eyes than previous soft lenses.
“These silicone hydrogel lenses are much more breathable than anything we’ve had since soft lenses were developed,” Gordon says. “Now we’re incorporating some of these newer designs, these multifocal designs, in the silicone hydrogel materials.”
The lenses also are multipurpose; patients can use them to correct issues other than presbyopia.
“They can be refitted in these newer lenses and it would correct their distance vision and their mid-range vision — for a computer screen or dashboard on a car,” Gordon says. “These lenses will give them more natural vision with fewer compromises.”
The Cornea Contact Lens Clinic will be testing the new lenses for an additional six to 12 months. To schedule an appointment, call 975-2020 or visit www.uab.edu/eyecare.