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Over 1,000,000 Reading Glasses Sold since 1999

A close-up look at nearsightedness

 I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Science Update listener Andrew Lee of Herndon, Virginia, called our Why Is It line with a question of perception:

"Why do some people have to wear reading glasses?"

We asked Myron Yanoff, chair of the Opthamology Department at MCP Hanneman College in Philadelphia, and he said that losing our near vision is a result of the lens in our eye being unable to focus properly. It often happens because as we age, the lenses become less and less elastic.

Dr. Yanoff:
"As you, I wouldn't say get older, but become more mature, you lose the ability to focus. And that is a very slow and constant thing, almost from birth on, so that by the time you reach the age forty, you do not have the ability to focus at near."

But he says that people who are nearsighted, and already use glasses to see distant objects, may never need any reading glasses to see their morning paper.

Dr. Yanoff:
"All of their friends are putting their reading glasses on to read and they're taking their glasses off to read."

Doctor Yanoff adds that people who get laser surgery to correct their distance vision may also wind up needing reading glasses. Once their eyes are made normal, they too will suffer age-related loss of near vision.