User's Manual: Eyes

Get Wise About Your Eyes

'Menus are suddenly hard to read'
No matter how great your vision's been, it's nearly inevitable that you'll have more trouble seeing things close up as you reach your 40s. The lens in your eye gets harder and less flexible over time, gradually losing the ability to focus, Dr. Marioneaux explains. The retina also becomes less light-sensitive, so it's harder to see in dim light.

How to see clearly: Squinting as you read? Pick up a pair of +1 glasses at the drugstore. (Wearing glasses won't make your sight worse—that's just a myth, Dr. Sumers says.)

If you already have glasses or contacts for distance and don't want to switch between two pairs, go for old-fashioned bifocals (or newer bifocal contact lenses), trifocals (which have a third zone in the middle for computer-distance vision), or progressive lenses (which blend the edges so you can see everything from a movie screen to a medicine label without as much distortion). Another option is monovision, in which your dominant eye is corrected (with contacts or surgery) for distance, and your other eye is corrected for close-up vision.

Let your gadgets work for you, too: Increase the font size on your e-reader, for instance, or try apps such as MagLight, which turns your smartphone into a light-up magnifying glass.

'I keep seeing spots'
Little dots and squiggly lines, called "floaters," come into your field of vision when the vitreous humor—a gel-like part of the eye—begins to shrink, causing cells and fibers to clump and cast shadows onto your retina. In most cases, they're harmless, but if a whole bunch appear suddenly, or if they're accompanied by persistent flashing lights or peripheral-vision loss, see your eye doctor ASAP—both could be signs of a retinal tear or detachment.

How to see clearly: If you've got a retinal detachment, or the floaters are so bad they're impairing your vision, you'll need surgery. Otherwise, most folks just learn to live with them, and even ignore them.

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