woman with reading glasses
Vision Health

Treatments May Help People with Aging Eyes See up Close Without Reading Glasses

Researchers are testing cutting-edge treatments for people who want to see up close without reading glasses and finding promising results, according to studies presented in October in Cicago at AAO 2016, the 120th annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. A new method that uses lasers to reshape a small part of the cornea, and a separate technique using painless electrostimulation, may be effective in treating presbyopia, the blurry near vision people develop around age 40.

A release from the academy explains that for some adults, wearing reading glasses for presbyopia is not a welcome habit. This is not only due to the inconvenience of taking the glasses off and putting them back on, but also due to the aesthetic. For those patients who want to maintain a youthful appearance, reading glasses may not fit that desired image. Two treatments are in development that show potential as unique approaches to addressing this need.

One approach uses a femtosecond laser to extract a disc of corneal tissue, which is then sculpted. This treatment may offer safety advantages over synthetic corneal inlays for presbyopia as it uses the person’s own more biologically-compatible corneal tissue. The other is for people who have mild forms of the condition and uses electrostimulation to activate and exercise the eye muscle that controls near vision. The technique requires no surgery, providing a potential advantage over invasive presbyopia treatments.

Laser treatment improves near vision using the person’s own corneal tissue

Surgical treatments for presbyopia are gaining popularity with recent U.S. Food and Drug Administration approvals of two types of corneal inlays, tiny lenses or optical devices that are inserted into the cornea to improve reading vision. One of the potential drawbacks of synthetic inlays is the patient’s eye rejecting the artificial material. A researcher at Dr. Agarwal’s Refractive and Cornea Foundation in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India, has developed a new technique that aims to address this issue and is studying its long-term safety and efficacy.

PEARL, or PrEsbyopic Allogenic Refractive Lenticule, is a new technique to correct presbyopia that involves the use of femtosecond lasers, which provide the ability to shape cornea with high precision. The PEARL procedure uses the laser to make a small cut in the cornea, the clear round dome at the front of the eye. A disc of corneal tissue, called a lenticule, is removed through this cut, using a technique called small incision lenticule extraction or SMILE. The SMILE technique permanently removes this tissue to reshape the eye and correct vision. In PEARL, the SMILE lenticule is cut to 1 mm and reshaped. This newly created inlay is placed into a pocket in the cornea of the presbyopic patient to improve near vision without significantly compromising distance vision.