Short surgery can help you get rid of reading glasses

By the time most of us hit our mid 40's, we're reaching for reading glasses to read the fine print.

There's no cure for the common condition called presbyopia, which is the loss your vision close up because of aging, but doctors may have found something that could help you put down those specs for good.

Rick Timmerman's 20-50 vision is now 20-20.

For the first time in 10 years, this physician's assistant is reading without glasses.

“I was in the Navy doing suturing and stuff. That's when I really noticed I couldn't tie a knot, couldn't see the end of a knot,” says Rick.

It happens to most people by age 45 - the lens in the eye becomes stiff and unable to focus.

Doctors hope they can bring back that near vision with a tiny implantable lens.

In a ten-minute surgery, doctors use a laser to make a flap in the cornea. The donut-shaped lens, thinner than a human hair, is placed underneath the flap.

While Lasik surgery can restore a person's distance vision, this procedure restores sight up-close. The implant blocks unfocused light, and a small opening allows focused light to enter, improving the range of vision and making it easier to see clearly up close.

“It's the first time that we're able to see beautifully at distance and at near out of the same eye,” says Dr. Thomas Tooma, medical director at TLC Laser Eye Center in Newport Beach, CA.

In a European study, 81% of patients achieved 20-20 vision after one year. Rick is one of the first to test the experimental lens.

So far he likes what he sees.

“I was helping a friend the other day in his garage putting a cabinet together and he was looking for a screw and he wears glasses and he couldn't find it. I was like, right there. There it is,” says Rick.

Rick's not tossing his glasses yet, but he's not relying on them nearly as often.

The acu-focus corneal implant is in clinical trials for adults age 45 to 60 who suffer from presbyopia.

Dr. Tooma says the lens should be on the market in two years or less.

Presbyopia is a vision condition in which the crystalline lens of the eye loses flexibility. This makes it difficult to focus on near objects. The effects of presbyopia normally take place over a number of years and become noticeable in the early to mid-40s. Since the condition is a normal part of the aging process, it cannot be prevented, according to the American Optometric Association. Signs of presbyopia include blurred vision at normal reading distance, and eye fatigue and headaches when doing close work.
TREATMENT: To help correct the effects of presbyopia, an optometrist may prescribe reading glasses, bifocals, trifocals or contact lenses. Changes in eyewear will probably be necessary since the effects of presbyopia continue to change the ability of the crystalline lens to focus. Another option is corneal implants. Though no such treatments have been approved by the FDA for use in the United States, a number of companies are conducting clinical trials to evaluate implants and inlays.
CORNEAL IMPLANTS: Corneal implants are tiny lenses or other devices inserted into the cornea to bend light and correct vision problems. There are clinical trials underway testing corneal implants designed to compensate for vision loss caused by presbyopia. Procedures to place corneal implants don't require the removal of tissue as do other vision correction procedures. The new corneal inlay called AcuFocus is being tested for the correction of presbyopia in adults. The implant is a piece of black polymer under 4 mm in diameter with a small opening in the center. The opening in the implant increases the eye's depth of focus and theoretically can improve near vision to a degree equivalent to a moderately strong bifocal lens. To implant the lens, a surgeon places the inlay within the cornea and centers it over the non-dominant pupil. The surgery takes about 15 minutes and can be performed in an eye surgeon's office. Recovery time depends on a patient's healing patterns; some see improvement within 48 hours and some within a few months. In an ongoing European trial, 57 patients who underwent the procedure to implant the AcuFocus lens attained the equivalent of 20/20 near vision without reading glasses after 12 months and also achieved a mean uncorrected distance vision of 20/20 in the treated eye. The most common reported effects of the implant are dry eye, glare and halos.
Thomas S. Tooma, MD
TLC Laser Eye Centers
Newport Beach, CA (
949) 854-7400

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