Differences Between Presbyopia and Cataracts
As you grow older, so do your eyes. Most people begin noticing changes to their vision around age 40.
Presbyopia and cataracts are two of the most common age-related vision problems you may experience at some point. Both eye conditions affect the quality and clarity of your vision over time.
While it’s possible to have presbyopia and cataracts simultaneously, the two are entirely unrelated. Keep reading to learn more about the differences between presbyopia and cataracts and the similarities between both.
Presbyopia vs. Cataracts
Presbyopia and cataracts have many differences, including different causes, risk factors, and treatments.
Causes of Presbyopia and Cataracts
Age-related farsightedness or presbyopia affects your close-up vision. It happens when your once springy, flexible lens hardens, making it difficult for the muscles in your eye to easily change focus to see things up close from far away.
Presbyopia typically starts to develop at around age 40. If you have presbyopia, you may find that your vision is blurred when reading, knitting, sewing, and performing other up-close activities.
A cataract occurs when the natural lens, usually clear and transparent, becomes cloudy. This happens when proteins inside the eyes break down and clump on your lens.
As a result, the lens gradually becomes more opaque and harder to see through.
Signs and Symptoms of Presbyopia and Cataracts
The signs of presbyopia include:
- Blurred up-close vision
- Eye strain
- Difficulty reading small print
- Holding your phone, menus, books, and other reading materials at arm’s length
You might not notice any vision changes in the early stages of a cataract. But as your cataract develops, you may experience the following symptoms:
- Cloudy, blurred, or foggy vision
- Halos and glare
- Light sensitivity
- Poor night vision
- Colors appearing faded or less vibrant
- Double vision in one eye
- Frequent prescription changes
Risk Factors for Presbyopia and Cataracts
Age is the most significant risk factor for presbyopia. However, certain medical conditions and medications can lead to premature presbyopia.
Premature presbyopia is presbyopia in people younger than 40. The following factors make you more likely to develop presbyopia at an early age, including:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Cardiovascular disease
- Certain medications, including diuretics, antianxiety drugs, antidepressants, antihistamines, and antipsychotics
The following factors increase your risk of developing cataracts:
- Growing older
- Previous eye surgery
- Family history of cataracts
- Previous eye inflammation
- Long-term use of steroids
- Exposure to radiation from cancer treatments and X-rays
Treatment for Presbyopia and Cataracts
Early on, prescription glasses or contact lenses, magnifying lenses, and brighter lighting can improve your vision when you have cataracts. But these are only temporary solutions.
If you have cataracts, they will usually worsen over time. The natural lens will get cloudier over time, interfering with your ability to see clearly and impairing your vision.
If cataracts hinder your ability to perform regular activities and enjoy your favorite pastimes, your eye doctor may recommend cataract surgery. Cataract surgery is the only way to treat cataracts and restore clear vision.
During the procedure, your cataract surgeon will remove the cloudy lens and implant an artificial clear one called an intraocular lens (IOL).
The IOL will help you regain any vision lost to cataracts. Cataract surgery is a quick procedure that’s safe and effective.
The treatment options available to help you maintain good vision when you have presbyopia include:
- Prescription reading glasses
- Over-the-counter reading glasses
- Monovision contact lenses
- Multifocal contact lenses
Correcting Presbyopia During Cataract Surgery
If you have cataracts and presbyopia and want to reduce your dependence on glasses or contacts, consider cataract surgery with a presbyopia-correcting IOL. Presbyopia-correcting lens implants like multifocal IOLs and the PanOptix trifocal IOL are specially designed to correct presbyopia and replace the natural lens where a cataract has formed.
These premium IOLs aim to offer a full range of clear vision from far to near and everywhere in between. Choosing one of these intraocular lenses can significantly reduce or eliminate the need for glasses or contacts after cataract surgery.
Similarities Between Presbyopia and Cataracts
Cataracts and presbyopia share similar symptoms and risk factors. Although there’s no way to guarantee you won’t develop either eye condition, you may be able to reduce your risk of developing cataracts or presbyopia using similar measures.
Although caused by different reasons, presbyopia and cataracts similarly affect your vision. A common symptom shared by both is the need for brighter lighting to read and perform other activities at close range.
Like cataracts, presbyopia often occurs as you age. Other risk factors shared by presbyopia and cataracts include:
- Previous eye injury
- Heavy alcohol use
- Eating unhealthy foods
- Excessive exposure to the sun
Preventing Presbyopia and Cataracts
There’s no way to guarantee you won’t develop presbyopia or cataracts. However, ophthalmologists recommend following these measures to reduce your risk of developing these eye conditions:
If you’re a smoker, it’s essential to stop smoking. Ask your doctor if you need assistance with quitting on your own.
Keep Your Blood Sugar Under Control
If you have diabetes, managing it can reduce your risk for cataracts and presbyopia. Your blood sugar needs to be under control to ensure you stay healthy.
Invest in quality sunglasses that block out 99 to 100 percent of the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. Not protecting your eyes from the sun’s rays can have significant consequences.
Limit Alcohol Use
The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest reducing alcohol intake to 1 drink or less per day for women and two drinks or less per day for men.
Add a variety of fresh fruits and leafy greens to your diet. Vegetables and fruits contain antioxidants that help maintain good eye and vision health. Some great sources of antioxidants include potatoes, oranges, tomatoes, grapefruit, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and strawberries.
Schedule Regular Appointments with Your Eye Doctor
Scheduling regular appointments with your eye doctor can help diagnose eye conditions like presbyopia and cataracts early. Timely detection will help manage your symptoms, ensure you achieve the best vision possible, and improve your quality of life.
Do you think you may have cataracts or need cataract surgery? Learn more by requesting an appointment today at Desert Vision Center in Rancho Mirage, CA!