Common Ground: Writing on the wall seen more clearly

The first of my many visits to the optometrist began my kindergarten year in 1975 when I started squinting to see the letters on the classroom chalkboard.

At the time, my eye doctor prescribed lenses made of real glass and I picked a whimsical frame that made me feel happy about wearing glasses.

My nearsightedness and astigmatism advanced through the years, forcing me to wear stronger lens prescriptions that also contain all of the modern bells and whistles, including the no-glare and anti-reflective coating technology.

I’m not alone. Some 225 million Americans use corrective lens. Among them, 64 percent wear glasses and 11 percent wear contact lenses, according to the National Eye Institute.

My new dilemma seemingly crept up on me. I can no longer read words close up without them appearing blurry.

“Presbyopia,” my doctor explained to me. It starts around the 40s when adults have problems seeing clearly at close distances. She told me it was normal.

With my new diagnosis, there are other issues people over 40 have to consider, she told me, including the need for more light for reading, drier eyes and more problems with glare.

I can barely read the directions on cooking or medicine labels without the letters appearing blurry, I told her.

Reading a newspaper, a text message or a restaurant menu in dim light requires extra work, too. And lately, I set my computer magnification to a comfortable 150 percent.

“Have you considered wearing progressive lenses?” my eye doctor asked.

I shuddered.

My doctor, who wears progressive lenses herself, assured me it would enhance my life.

“Presbyopia progresses over time,” she said. I took that to mean that I will probably need to wear progressive lenses for the rest of my life.

She placed a sheet of tiny letters in front of me and I struggled to read them from the page.

“Does this help?” she said. I looked at the words through a magnified lens that enlarged the text and read the entire paragraph with ease.

I was convinced without question that I needed to include the new magnification prescription into my glasses. She explained that the top of the lens would contain my usual prescription, but the bottom half of the frame would give me additional magnification.

My solution is to accept the condition as a normal part of growing older and help my eyes as much as possible. I recently ordered my progressive lenses online and I’m expecting their arrival in a couple of weeks.

I’m not shuddering anymore, either. I’m ready to embrace the change as a normal part of life.

Chante Dionne Warren is a freelance writer. She can be reached at