Do you have weak vision and want to know what are the best eye exercises for presbyopia? Do you always reach for your reading glasses when you want to use your phone? What happens if you need to read a menu? Has this condition gotten worse or worsened with age?
You may have presbyopia if you have difficulty seeing objects close to your face in your golden years. The primary cause of this eye condition is a loss of strength in the muscles that control the lens of the eye.
Presbyopia affects billions of people. We have tools to help manage symptoms, but is there anything else we can do? Examine all of the options below to discuss with your patients how to combat this ageing sign.
Presbyopia does not occur quickly; rather, it is a gradual decrease in your eyes’ ability to accommodate (or focus) at close range.
This occurs naturally as your eye’s lens loses elasticity and becomes less able to change shape to accommodate where you look.
Presbyopia ‘hits’ everyone at different ages because it is caused by more than just a change in our lens; there are other factors to consider, such as a person’s refractive error (corrected/uncorrected) and visual demands (e.g., small font, computer work vs. construction).
The most common symptom of presbyopia is reduced near vision, but presbyopic patients also experience reduced contrast and processing speed.
A full comprehensive eye exam is the best way to determine if your patient is one of the 1.8 billion people worldwide who suffer from presbyopia.
Fortunately, you can do some presbyopia eye exercises to help regain some of that muscle strength. But, before we get started, let’s learn a little bit more about this condition and its symptoms.
What Is Presbyopia?
Unfortunately, presbyopia is a very common condition, affecting four million Americans each year. This condition is frequently brought on by the ageing process. Our vision, like the rest of our bodies, begins to suffer from the effects of ageing at some point in our lives.
Presbyopia can cause the following symptoms:
- Difficulty focusing on nearby objects
- Difficulty seeing things in low light Eyestrain
- Focusing on small objects and fine print is difficult.
You’ll want to find ways to treat your vision as it deteriorates. While corrective lenses are usually the go-to solution, they can actually make your eyes worse. Your eyes will continue to lose muscle strength as you begin to use corrective lenses to help with presbyopia. You will eventually need stronger and stronger lenses.
In some cases, people resort to surgery for assistance. However, this may not only be costly, but it may also be ineffective and cause some unpleasant side effects. As with any surgical procedure, there is the possibility that something will go wrong and you will lose your vision completely.
There is another option for people who do not want to go down either of the two previously mentioned paths: presbyopia eye exercises can help you improve your vision naturally.
Diagnosis of presbyopia
The most common question I receive from patients in this age group, particularly those who have never worn glasses before, is “Can I do eye exercises to strengthen my eyes so that I don’t need glasses?”
The short answer is “NO,” but let’s talk about these vision correction exercises because there’s a lot of information out there claiming you can.
As with anything else, there are various approaches to treating presbyopia with eye exercises. One popular training method mentioned in the New York Times is to focus on the perceptual aspect of reading.
It works by training the brain to gather words on a page more efficiently, reducing blur and improving contrast sensitivity, increasing your reading speed and overall reading experience.
The chart below (Figure 1)2 depicts the results of an experiment conducted by Polat et al. on 13 subjects aged 50+/-1.1 years to compare pre-therapy vs. post-therapy (20 session) visual function to a “young eye.” There are noticeable improvements across the board.
There are also apps that provide a similar training regimen, such as GlassesOff or UltimEyes, and advertise improvement after a few months of work. According to GlassesOff, users can read letters up to 1.6 times smaller.
UltimEyes operates on the same principle of increasing processing speed, but it is aimed at a younger, pre-presbyopic demographic.
Dr. Alan Seitz, a neuroscientist, worked with the University of California, Riverside baseball team and saw improvements in their performance on the field. It is important to note that both of these apps improve brain function rather than changing the eyeball itself.
The Bates Method
“The Bates Method,” which has been around since the 1920s, believes that vision changes are caused by mental and visual straining habits.
This method, developed by ophthalmologist William Bates, was originally intended to reduce nearsightedness, but he has an entire section dedicated to presbyopia.
His method, which includes’sunning’ (directly looking at the sun with your eyes) and palming (pressing your eyes with the palm of your hand), has never been scientifically proven to improve visual conditions and can harm the eye.
Even if you close your eyes and look at the sun, you are increasing your risk of skin cancer (lesions around the eye and eyelids account for 5-10% of all skin cancers).
Palming, on the other hand, can cause temporary increases in eye pressure, which, if done repeatedly and with different predispositions, can lead to glaucoma progression.
The Bates Method attempts to treat the underlying cause of changing vision, and while it continues to have a large following even in 2021, it has been repeatedly debunked.
Is there any harm in doing eye exercises?
The key question here is whether there is any ‘harm’ in performing these exercises. No, not at all. Some of these treatment methods do improve your brain’s processing speed and contrast sensitivity, making you a better reader.
However, I will say anecdotally that I am an optometrist who specialises in vision therapy and rehabilitation.
Every day, I work with patients to improve their accommodative (focusing muscle) function and perceptual abilities. I’ve seen pre-presbyopic patients who have had traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) report near vision blur almost immediately after the accident (there is a high prevalence of accommodative dysfunction post-concussion).
They report that after a course of vision therapy, they no longer require the small reading glasses prescribed, but this is often just a temporary fix because, unfortunately, anatomy is anatomy, and there are some ageing processes we can’t avoid.
When should you start doing eye exercises for your vision?
Everyone, regardless of age, who does a lot of reading or computer work should take frequent breaks and try the 20-20-20 exercise.
Eye strain and fatigue become increasingly important after the age of 40. Make eye breaks a part of your daily routine if you haven’t already.
Eye Exercises For Presbyopia
Eye Exercises for Presbyopia
Before we get into the specific exercises that can assist, make sure you’re receiving enough vitamins and minerals in your diet to get the most out of completing vision correcting exercises.
You can maintain your body, including your eyes, in better shape for longer if you consume enough of the correct nutrients. There are even certain nutrients that might help you battle presbyopia.
If your diet isn’t perfect and you’re not receiving enough vitamins and minerals to aid your vision, you should think about taking supplements. This will guarantee that your eyes receive the most possible assistance from your body and remain in the best possible condition for as long as possible.
Presbyopia, unlike other eye problems, may be cured at home with exercises. All of these workouts are designed to strengthen the muscles that govern your concentration. This is accomplished by flexing, relaxing, and making the muscle work harder than normal, just as it does with any other muscle in your body.
Warm-up activities are required before beginning any activity. Use this warm-up to loosen the ocular eye muscles and increase blood flow to the eye’s surrounding areas. This, in turn, will improve your eyesight by increasing the quantity of oxygen that gets to your eyes.
Close your eyes and rotate them 10-15 times counterclockwise. When you’re completed, repeat the process counterclockwise. Make sure you do this before beginning your workouts, and keep your eyes closed while doing so.
After the warm-up, open your eyes and take a few moments to restore your attention. You are now ready to begin the next exercises.
Focusing on a Distant Object
Hold anything near to your face, around six inches away, for this exercise. This should be a little object, such as a pencil or your index finger. For approximately a minute and a half, concentrate as hard as you can on that thing. Then shift your concentration to someplace approximately 10 feet away, but keep staring in the same direction.
Return your attention to the thing closest to your face once your concentration on the distant object is clear. Look at it for another 90 seconds.
This method should be repeated five or six times. You may also use the 10-10-10 Rule to this sort of practise.
Focusing at Arm’s Length
This exercise has the same concept as the faraway object exercise. Extend your arm away from your body and place your hand in the ‘thumbs up’ position. Focus on your thumb, then gently bring it nearer your face while keeping your thumb in focus.
When it becomes difficult to focus on your thumb, carefully return your arm to its extended posture while remaining focused on the thumb.
Continue for three to five minutes. Never take your eyes off your thumb.
Clock Face Training
Finish this exercise last and use it as a cool-down. Consider yourself to be looking at a clock face. Vertically move your gaze from 6 to 12 o’clock. Perform the following moves 20 times. Then shift your gaze from 9 to 3 p.m. Do this 20 times more.
After completing this exercise, close your eyes and relax them for a few moments.
Presbyopia Eye Exercises
By performing these simple eye exercises and eating adequate vitamins and minerals, you can have superior eyesight for many years to come. Our eyes will naturally begin to decline as we get older.
Presbyopia is quite frequent as we become older. Do these basic workouts every day to counteract the natural ageing process. They should take no more than 20 minutes every day and can significantly enhance your life as you become older.
What presbyopia options are there?
Glasses and contacts
The most basic option is to get a pair of reading glasses that you can put on and take off when you need to see something up close.
Traditional bifocals with the line are another option, but I always recommend a progressive style lens that corrects for distance, near, and everything in between.
Because our world is dynamic, I am always drawn to this lens design. We are looking at our computer screens, our devices, and then out into the distance. All of these distances are corrected by the progressive style lens, which eliminates the need for multiple glasses changes.
Lenses for contact lenses:
Multifocal or monovision contact lenses are another fantastic option.
Multi-focal contacts function similarly to progressive glasses in that both eyes are corrected for distance, intermediate, and near vision. These lens options include daily wear, monthly wear, and astigmatism correction within these multifocal lenses, which are now available.
Each company’s contact lenses are slightly different in design, but they all work on teaching your brain how to use the ‘right’ part of the lens to see clearly depending on the distance you are looking at.
Contacts with monovision:
This is a one-of-a-kind modality design with one eye corrected for distance and one eye corrected for near.
This option has some drawbacks because the two eyes are never truly working together, and some people may experience glare at night and difficulty with depth perception.
There are several possibilities here:
You can consider slightly undercorrecting a myopic (nearsighted) prescription or opt for a monovision end result depending on your refractive error (try this in contacts first, please).
Again, depending on the condition of your lens, you may develop cataracts that are safe to remove. There are numerous types of lenses that can be implanted during cataract surgery to help you achieve your vision goals.
Inlays in the cornea:
This is a relatively new procedure in which tiny devices that correct for presbyopia are implanted into the cornea. There are numerous designs that aim to produce different refractive powers (such as a multifocal contact lens) or to produce a pinhole-like effect to improve vision.
There are many restrictions on who is a good candidate for the surgery, and KAMRA is currently the only FDA-approved corneal inlay. KAMRA studies claim improved near vision by up to two lines without interfering with distance vision.
There are two types of therapeutics available to treat presbyopia: those that aim to work on the anatomy of the eye to reduce natural age-related changes and those that attempt to pharmacologically change the depth of focus to address presbyopia symptoms, known as ‘phaco-refractive treatments.’
The former is still a long way from becoming a viable treatment option, but the latter phaco-refractive treatments are getting closer.