Is arm length the reason women need reading glasses sooner than men?

Studies have consistently reported that women require reading glasses or bifocal lenses earlier than men. According to a recent Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science paper, the gender difference is caused by factors other than focusing ability, such as arm length or preferred reading distance, which should be considered when prescribing readers or bifocals.

The new evidence was found by a team of researchers who performed a meta-analysis using nine cross-sectional studies to compare the prevalence and magnitude of presbyopia — commonly described as the loss of near vision that occurs with age — among men and women. The researchers further subdivided the analysis to determine what differences in presbyopia might exist between men and women.

The new evidence was found by a team of researchers who performed a meta-analysis using nine cross-sectional studies to compare the prevalence and magnitude of presbyopia — commonly described as the loss of near vision that occurs with age — among men and women. The researchers further subdivided the analysis to determine what differences in presbyopia might exist between men and women.

While the results of a subgroup of studies showed that there was no significant gender-related difference in the eye's ability to focus clearly on objects at near distances, the overall analysis provided evidence that women have a need for higher power reading glasses or bifocals than men of an equivalent age. According to the researchers, this discrepancy is likely due to differences in preferred reading distances or arm length as women tend to hold reading materials closer than do.

"These findings could impact global vision care in multiple ways," said Hickenbotham. "The findings reinforce the need for presbyopia correction programs for — a group that often has greater unmet vision needs in developing countries. It also points out that presbyopia is a multi-factorial problem and requires solutions that are tailored to each individual."

While the researchers urge clinicians to do more than measure the eye's ability to focus when diagnosing presbyopia, they also suggest more carefully performed studies be conducted that better isolate and measure the various factors that contribute to its development. In particular, the paper states longitudinal studies that consider the interaction between the preferred reading distance and the change in accommodative amplitude across time for males and females could help determine to what extent biological factors or environmental factors plays a role in the loss of focusing ability with increasing age.

Related Stories

Cure for reading glasses may be in view

May 24, 2006

It's 10 p.m., and you've finally relaxed into your favorite comfy chair to browse the day's newspaper. Patting your shirt pockets you realize there's a problem, and now you're not relaxed anymore. You can't find your reading ...

Multifocal contact lenses may reduce vision for night driving

Nov 03, 2010

A new study suggests that older adults who wear multifocal contact lenses to correct problems with near vision, a very common condition that increases with age, may have greater difficulty driving at night than their counterparts ...

Women feel pain more often than men

Jul 06, 2005

Women feel pain more than men -- the opposite of widely held beliefs that men are more susceptible to pain, British researchers at the University of Bath say.

Recommended for you

New glaucoma culprit is found

Sep 15, 2014

Glaucoma, a leading cause of irreversible blindness, is associated with elevated pressure in the eye. This elevated pressure essentially is due to a plumbing problem. Fluid builds up in the eye, increasing ...

New glaucoma cause discovered

Sep 09, 2014

Northwestern Medicine scientists have discovered a novel cause of glaucoma in an animal model, and related to their findings, are now developing an eye drop aimed at curing the disease. They believe their ...

User comments