The mechanism of presbyopia

Prog Retin Eye Res. 2005 May;24(3):379-93. doi: 10.1016/j.preteyeres.2004.11.001. Epub 2004 Dec 19.


Accommodation in humans refers to the ability of the lens to change shape in order to bring near objects into focus. Accommodative loss begins during childhood, with symptomatic presbyopia, or presbyopia that affects one's day to day activities, striking during midlife. While symptomatic presbyopia has traditionally been treated with reading glasses or contact lenses, a number of surgical interventions and devices are being actively developed in an attempt to restore at least some level of accommodation. This is occurring at a time when the underlying cause of presbyopia remains unknown, and even the mechanism of accommodation is occasionally debated. While Helmholtz' theory regarding the mechanism of accommodation is generally accepted with regard to broad issues, additional details continue to emerge. Age-related changes in anterior segment structures associated with accommodation have been documented, often through in vitro and/or rhesus monkey studies. A review of these findings suggests that presbyopia develops very differently in humans compared to non-human primates. Focusing on non-invasive in vivo human imaging technologies, including Scheimpflug photography and high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the data suggest that the human uveal tract acts as a unit in response to age-related increasing lens thickness and strongly implicates lifelong lens growth as the causal factor in the development of presbyopia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Accommodation, Ocular
  • Aging*
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Lens, Crystalline / growth & development
  • Models, Biological
  • Presbyopia / physiopathology*
  • Uvea / physiopathology