Kanohi kāhu o te pakeke Long-sightedness with ageing (presbyopia)

Presbyopia, or long-sightedness that begins in middle age, makes it hard to focus on things that are up close. It is not a disease but a normal part of getting older. It affects everyone, even people who have never had any eyesight problems before. It is different from hyperopia, which makes it difficult for younger people to focus on things up close.

Causes of presbyopia

Normal healthy, young eyes can focus from far in the distance to just a few centimetres from the eye. This is because the lenses in young eyes are very flexible and can change shape to focus on different things. This happens so quickly that we do not even know our eyes are refocusing.

As we get older, the lenses in our eyes thicken and slowly lose their flexibility, making it difficult to see things that are very close.

Presbyopia does not happen suddenly, and it does not affect your distance vision. The process that causes presbyopia starts in adolescence, and we cannot stop it.

Medical illustration showing the lens shape change in a normal eye and an eye with presbyopia with no lens change

Symptoms of presbyopia

People usually start noticing the symptoms of presbyopia in their early to mid-40s. Symptoms are:

  • eyestrain when doing close work (tired, sore, red or itchy eyes), headaches and fatigue
  • difficulty seeing fine objects or small print
  • difficulty changing focus from distance to near
  • blurred vision at a normal reading distance
  • holding reading material at arm's length to see it clearly
  • a need for brighter lights when doing close work.

The symptoms continue to get worse until around age 60.

Treating presbyopia


Many people find over-the-counter or ready-made glasses help at first, but they often fail to give comfortable or relaxed vision. These glasses do not correct astigmatism (blurring caused by an oval shaped eye) or any difference in the prescription between your eyes. To find out what prescription you need, you'll have to have a professional eye exam. Your glasses will also need to be carefully fitted to make sure they're in the right position for your eyes.

Some people who need to wear glasses for seeing in the distance choose to use two different pairs of single-vision glasses — one for reading and another for looking in the distance.

You can ask for lenses that help you to focus close up and in the distance – this is possible with either bifocal or multifocal (progressive) lenses. Talk to your optometrist about your options.

Contact lenses and surgery

Some people prefer contact lenses to glasses. There are also surgical options to correct presbyopia.

Surgery to improve vision — HealthInfo (external link)

Ongoing checks

Between the ages of 45 and 55, your vision changes rapidly and you might need to change your prescription quite regularly. It is best to have regular eye exams to make sure your eyes are healthy and give you efficient and comfortable vision.

Have an eye examination every 2 years after the age of 40 unless your optometrist or ophthalmologist (specialist eye doctor) suggests otherwise.

After 65 you may need to have them more often, so your optometrist can diagnose and treat any sight-threatening conditions, such as glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) as soon as possible.

Clinical review

This content was written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. It has been adapted for Health Information and Services.

Clinical advisers — HealthInfo (external link)