When Your Arms Are Too Short…


As someone who grew up with myopia (nearsightedness), I never imagined that my reading vision would fail me.  Yet I have spent the last four years holding menus at arm’s length to make it easier to read the food selections.  Within the past year, I adopted the habit of grabbing my reading glasses first thing in the morning when I grab my phone.  Do you know why?  Because my close-up vision has become so dim that if I dare to construct a social media post without my glasses, I end up finding typos on my caption or hashtags.  I’ve even gotten to the point where I wear my glasses when sitting at the computer and reading a considerable amount of material, because it reduces eye strain.  

The end result is that I either grab glasses, or wish that my arms were longer.  I also wish that restaurants filled with romantic ambience would scrap the low light conditions in favor of slightly brighter light which would make it possible for all but the most elderly and vision-challenged to see.  

Presbyopia (the age related stiffening of the lens of the eye, which interferes with its ability to contract and diffract the light) has reared its ugly head and taken up residence permanently in my daily life.   And despite the fact that I had the knowledge base to realize that presbyopia would color my life after the age of 50, I am still surprised at how sudden and noticeable the vision changes have been.  

I went from not being able to see the big E on the Snellen eye chart from my childhood into my late 40’s, to struggling to read receipts in my 50’s and wondering,  “Is that a 6, or an 8?”, or, “Is that a 3 or a 5?”  It’s pretty frustrating.  There have been instances in which I have picked up products with the intention of reading the product ingredients, but I often cannot read them at all.  

What’s really strange is that it makes me feel a bit disconnected from the world, since once sense is noticeably dulled. Who else feels that way as a result of having age-related loss of near vision?

Whaddya Mean, I Need Reading Glasses?

reading glasses

I have struggled for the past several years with my reading vision. Reading things like menus in dark restaurants, and the small print on supplement bottles, has become extremely challenging. It is very frustrating for me, because I used to be able to read the smallest print better than most other people were able to. Of course, that was because I had myopia and astigmatism which robbed me of crisp distance vision from the time I was a child, up until I got Lasik at the age of 41.

When I had the Lasik procedure done, I went from having 20/400 distance vision to having 20/30 distance vision in my right eye and 20/25 distance vision in my left eye. The reason why the distance vision in my right eye is slightly worse is because the right eye was corrected for reading vision.

For about 4 years after I had Lasik, my reading vision sat at about 20/25, which was a sacrifice for me, since I had enjoyed 20/10 reading vision for decades. However, I have spent the past few years noticing my close-up vision dwindle. At this point I am at a 20/35 on a good day, and 20/40 in dimly lit conditions or first thing in the morning. This is all due to presbyopia, the age-related stiffening of the lens of the eye, which makes it more difficult for the eyes to accommodate the way they need to for crisp reading vision.

You would think that I would wear reading glasses whenever I needed them, but I am SO stubborn that I very rarely reach for them. Part of the reason is that I always hated wearing glasses before I had Lasik (I almost exclusively wore contact lenses whenever I was out and about). The notion of whipping out reading glasses and having them perched on the edge of my nose is not appealing to me at all! In addition, I have a small nose, so reading glasses tend to slip off my nose while I am wearing them. I think I also have a natural resistance to reading glasses because I used to look at people wearing reading glasses, and think, “wow, that person is OLD.” I know that’s terrible and short-sighted (pun intended), but I just can’t help it! I’d rather grab a magnifying lens than my glasses!

For those of you who might be scratching your heads, wondering what all the numbers above mean, read the explanation which the American Optometric Association has on their website:

20/20 vision is a term used to express normal visual acuity (the clarity or sharpness of vision) measured at a distance of 20 feet. If you have 20/20 vision, you can see clearly at 20 feet what should normally be seen at that distance. If you have 20/100 vision, it means that you must be as close as 20 feet to see what a person with normal vision can see at 100 feet.

20/20 does not necessarily mean perfect vision. 20/20 vision only indicates the sharpness or clarity of vision at a distance. There are other important vision skills, including peripheral awareness or side vision, eye coordination, depth perception, focusing ability and color vision that contribute to your overall visual ability.

Some people can see well at a distance, but are unable to bring nearer objects into focus. This condition can be caused by hyperopia (farsightedness) or presbyopia (loss of focusing ability). Others can see items that are close, but cannot see those far away. This condition may be caused by myopia (nearsightedness).

A comprehensive eye examination by a doctor of optometry can diagnose those causes, if any, that are affecting your ability to see well. In most cases, your optometrist can prescribe glasses, contact lenses or a vision therapy program that will help improve your vision. If the reduced vision is due to an eye disease, the use of ocular medication or other treatment may be used.