Now, an eye implant to replace your reading glasses

Last Updated: Sep 11, 2011, 21:58 PM IST

London: Fed up with your reading glasses? Fret not, scientists have developed a new revolutionary eye procedure which they say could allow millions to abandon their spectacles.

The new treatment, which involves an operation to insert a plastic implant into the eye, has shown good results in trials carried out recently.

In the procedure, called Z Kamra, a laser is used to make an incision in the cornea, the front lens of the eye, so that an inlay thinner than a red blood cell can be inserted by hand.

Looking like a flattened black polo mint, and smaller than a contact lens, the implant sits around the iris and pupil and works like a pinhole camera, a newspaper reported.

It reduces the amount of light allowed through the pupil to reach the retina, the part of the eye where rays of light are turned into images.

By allowing through central beams, which produce the sharpest images, and blocking out those on our outer range of vision, which are useful for seeing in dark light but do not produce clear pictures, the implant can restore the perfect vision most of us were born with, the researchers said.

"Finding a treatment for presbyopia is important," said ophthalmologist Dr David Allamby, who specialises in the condition.

"As we age, the crystalline lens, which sits behind the cornea and acts like a zoom, stiffens from a squashy gel-like substance to a fixed structure. This makes it harder for eye muscles to squeeze it into shape to get a clear image.

"Most over 45s will know that feeling: suddenly, struggling to read menus or maps. We squint at text messages, but our longer sight for driving, say, remains good.

"By the age of 50, 90 percent of your lens flexibility is lost. The only people who will still read easily are those who were born short-sighted, but who already use glasses for distance work."

Those with a high degree of short or long sight, such as prescriptions of minus six or plus three, or those over 70 might not be suitable for the treatment as their cataracts may be close to needing replacement.

The procedure costs 2,800 pounds for one eye but 90 per cent of patients will need both eyes treating for 4,600 pounds. Equivalent laser surgery would cost around 4,000 pounds.

But Dr Larry Benjamin, an eye surgeon at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire and chair of the Royal Society of Ophthalmologists education committee, was cautious.

He said: "This is an interesting concept. But it won`t suit everyone and I imagine certain professionals such as pilots, where night vision is important, would not be allowed it, but the research so far shows it works reasonably well.

"However, I would like to see more follow-up data in terms of complications and visual symptoms."

PTI