Don't want to wear reading glasses? Now you may not have to

August 17, 2004

SAN FRANCISCO--It is an inevitable part of aging many baby boomers face. The newspaper seems to get farther and farther away as you read it. As we age, the lens of the eye progressively hardens and loses its ability to change shape. This results in the decreased ability to focus on near objects, making reading difficult. This condition is called presbyopia and its onset is usually noticed in the early to mid 40s.

Until recently, there were limited choices when dealing with presbyopia. These included reading glasses, bifocal eyeglasses or bifocal contact lenses. Eye doctors could also fit you with special contact lenses allowing you to use one eye to see far and the other to see close up. However, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology--the Eye M.D. Association--there have been recent developments that may allow some of us to bypass reading glasses.

One of the options you may have heard about is a procedure called conductive keratoplasty, or CK. Unlike other refractive surgery procedures, such as LASIK in which a laser is used to reshape the cornea of the eye, CK uses high energy radio waves. According to Academy Spokesperson Daniel Durrie, MD, assistant clinical professor, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, Kan., the radio waves are focused onto the periphery of the cornea to heat the corneal tissue. A natural property of the cornea is to shrink when it reaches 60 degrees Celsius. As the peripheral corneal tissue shrinks, the center of the cornea rises. "Imagine taking a balloon and squeezing the sides," Dr. Durrie says. "As the sides shrink, the top bulges, giving the patients near vision."

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said CK is safe and effective. The cost is about $1,500 to $2,000 per eye. Generally, CK is done in one eye and lasts for several years. Patients may have retreatments if needed. The best candidates for CK are those who have great distance vision, but need reading glasses. These include patients who have previously had refractive surgery.
-end-
The American Academy of Ophthalmology is the world's largest association of eye physicians and surgeons--Eye M.D.s--with more than 27,000 members. For more information about eye health care, visit the Academy's partner Web site at www.medem.com/eyemd. To find an Eye M.D. in your area, visit the Academy's Web site at www.aao.org.

American Academy of Ophthalmology

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