Driving at night: Boomers may notice it gets harder — article by Scott Keith
Posted May 01 2011 5:08pm
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If you’re a baby boomer, you can probably recall that uneasy moment when your vision went south and you had to buy your first pair of “cheater” glasses. Chances are, your distant vision was OK, but, all of a sudden, you couldn’t read the words on a restaurant menu; you needed glasses whenever you cracked open your morning paper to scan the baseball scores.
Don’t think you’re alone, vision eventually fails nearly everybody. It’s just a normal part of the aging process.
As we age, according to Dr. Michael Pier, the portion of the eye that allows us to focus at different distances has a tendency to lose it’s flexibility. “In doing that, we lose the ability to focus at different distances quite as rapidly as we did when we were young,” says Pier, adding that there’s a loss of clear vision up close, the medical term being presbyopia.
Pier, director of optometric professional relations and practitioner education for Bausch & Lomb’s North American Vision Care division, says the first notice of presbyopia is usually between the ages of 35 and 40. This “slowly progresses to be more absolute in its manifestation around 50 to 55,” says Pier. Both men and women are affected by presbyopia and it strikes all ethnic groups.
Pier, in an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, says while the human eye has adapted well to our changing lifestyles, our eyes do change throughout our lives. One manifestation of this is the difficulty older men and women experience while driving at night.
Pier describes why it can be difficult to drive at night. He says our pupils dilate to allow more light, but “what we’ll start to do is lose our contrast, our clarity and crispness. We notice that as glare or halos when we’re driving on headlights and street lights,” says Pier, who has more than 29 years of clinical experience in optometric patient care.
Technology has advanced dramatically since founding father Benjamin Franklin invented bifocal lenses a couple of centuries ago. “We’ve moved from those two lenses in a frame to single-lens surfacing that now has invisible lines and is progressive so lenses actually flow smoother from distance to near-focus and areas in between,” says Pier. “We’ve even gotten to the point where we’re incorporating those technologies and others in contact lenses.” Pier notes that his Bausch & Lomb leads in that technology.
Pier recommends you keep regular with eye examinations throughout your life. If you’re getting up in age and you have concerns with night-time glare or halos from headlights or streetlights, see a good eye care practitioner (an ophthalmologist or optometrist) to discuss your vision issues. “You don’t have to fight it.”