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Say goodbye to reading glasses

January 11, 2010 3:21:54 PM PST
By the time most of us hit our mid-40s, we're reaching for reading glasses to make out that fine print. There's no cure for the common condition called presbyopia, loss of near vision caused by aging. But doctors may have found something that may 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," Timmerman said. "That's when I really noticed I couldn't tie a knot. I couldn't see the end of a knot."

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 this tiny implantable lens.

In a 10-minute surgery, a surgeon uses a laser to make a flap in the cornea. A 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," said Dr. Thomas S. Tooma, medical director of TLC Laser Eye Centers in Newport Beach, California.

In a European study, 81 percent of patients achieved 20/20 vision after one year.

Timmerman 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," Timmerman said. "I was like, 'Right there. There it is.'"

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

The AcuFocus 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.


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