Can You Read Me Now? Try A Lens Implant
Between the ages of 40 and 55, we can't help but notice a decline in our ability to read the small print on pharmacy products; then newspaper print is even too small for us. Gradually, we adjust to our waning vision by holding small objects and reading material farther and farther away, until our arms can't extend any more. This deterioration in our ability to see close-up is called presbyopia - a word of Greek derivation, which one might say means "old eyes."
Whereas at an earlier age, our natural lenses would readily zoom in and out to focus wherever our eyes land, now our natural lenses no longer have the flexibility to respond to our sight requirements, especially for near vision. Magnifying glasses are what most of us rely on for help in reading and other close work. Those who need distance correction as well might try bifocal or even trifocal glasses that have two or three different corrections in the same lens. Another option that might aid presbyopia is the use of contact lenses to create monovision by fitting one eye with a near vision lens and the other eye with a distance lens or uncorrected lens. This gives the burden of near sight to one eye and distance to the other.
It's not only presbyopia that we boomers have to look forward to, but cataracts, caused by the gradual clumping of the natural protein in our lenses. Although cataracts are not generally problematic until our 60's and 70's, if left to their own devices, they will cause blindness. Surgical lens replacement is the only treatment for cataracts.
The excitement, though, is in the field of intraocular lenses (IOL's) where optical scientists are clearing the way for bionic lenses! Imagine reaching 50 or 60 and having your sight restored to perfect!
Lens replacement surgeries are considered to be among the safest and successful surgeries. They have long been used to replace our natural lenses when they have been damaged by cataracts, but my mother's IOLs, for example, are single-vision lenses, improving only her distance viewing.
The new generation of IOL's are multi-focal and accommodating, enabling adjustment to near, mid, and far distances to the eye. On February 1, 2007, Alcon Labs' AcrySof® ReSTOR® Apodized Diffractive Aspheric Intraocular Lens became the latest accommodating intraocular lens (IOL) to be approved by the FDA for use with presbyotic patients with or without cataracts. It is a multifocal lens that uses both light refraction and diffraction to direct light to the retina and to provide a range of clear vision from near to far. This technology, used in making telescope and microscope lenses, has now been patented for human lenses by Alcon.
Other accommodating IOLs approved for presbyotic and cataract patients are the ReZoom TM by Advanced Medical Optics and the Crystalens TM by Eyeonics Inc..
The ReZoom is a multifocal lens implant that includes five different zones, each responding to a different degree of light and thus enabling sight from near to far.
The Crystalens, although a single-focus lens, is a movable lens that is attached to our eye's own muscles. It operates much like our natural lenses do, expanding and contracting according the the amount of light entering the eye.
The new IOLs are not cheap: about $5000 per eye. Medicare now covers part of the cost of accommodating lenses as do some medical insurance companies if you have cataracts. The implants are not covered for presbyopia alone
If you have had laser surgery to correct other vision problems, such as nearsightedness or astigmatism, surgeons advise that you will still get presbyopia and cataracts and you may be good candidates for IOLs.
Surgery takes place on an out-patient basis and the procedures take approximately 15 to 30 minutes. Most eye surgeons who practice implant surgery offer all three lenses and say that their recommendations of one lens over another depends on the individual patient's visual acuity as well as other factors, such as lifestyle. There may be some after effects of the surgery, such as sensitivity to glare, but they are said to diminish with use. Some amount of eye training is required after the implant and, in a small number of cases, magnifying glasses may still be needed for close work.
If you're not in a hurry, I would wait to see what else comes out of this field. The news for the over-spectacled can only be more spectacular! Researchers at the University of Michigan, for example, are working on a non-invasive method to re-form the natural lens using ultrasound technology and laser surgery. The method has been successfully tested in pigs' eyes....really.
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AcrySof ReSTORAdvanced Medical Optics Alcon Labs AllAboutVision.comMayoClinic.com MedicineNet.com
National Eye InstituteReZoom IOLSeeWithLasik.com