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Time to Toss Those Reading Glasses?

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The procedure involves placing four tiny spherical plastic devices inside the white of the eye, encircling the colored part, known as the iris. The devices push up or stretch the white of the eye, leaving more room for the muscles underneath to work. Schacher theorizes that the lens of the eye continues to grow, like an onion, throughout life, eventually crowding the muscle so that it can no longer exert adequate force to work properly. The theory bucks the widely held belief that presbyopia is caused by the hardening of the lens with age.

While the surgery appears safe, its effectiveness remains to be proven. Goodman says she is thrilled with her results, calling it, "a dream come true."

Schacher tells WebMD the surgery has successfully reversed presbyopia in three-fourths of the 29 patients who have had it performed in the U.S. under early FDA guidelines.

But other eye surgeons report less success, and at least one says he has stopped doing it entirely due to poor results.

Schacher says presbyopia surgery could soon complement laser eye surgery performed to correct nearsightedness, allowing people to have excellent vision into their 60s and even 70s.

"The bottom line is that if you combine laser surgery with our procedure, people would not need glasses for reading or distance," he says.

Washington state ophthalmologist Richard Harmon, MD, FACS, says the two surgeries may one day be offered as a package, with laser surgery performed first, and then the presbyopia surgery performed several weeks or months later.

Harmon, who is president of Cascade Regional Eye and Surgery Center in Arlington, Wash., had the presbyopia surgery in both eyes and also has traveled to Mexico to perform it on three patients. The results, he says, were mixed. He is very happy with his own surgery but says two of his patients did not have successful results.

Ophthalmologist Hampton Roy, MD, says that he, too, has had the surgery and has performed it successfully on three patients. Both Harmon and Roy now own stock in Presby Corp.

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