Oct. 24, 2011 (Orlando, Fla.) -- A Lifesaver-shaped micro-disc about the size of a pinpoint can help restore normal reading vision in the millions of baby boomers who have trouble making out newspaper print, cell phone text messages, and other small print, researchers say.
In a study, the Kamra cornea inlay improved near vision in all of about 2,000 people with presbyopia, says Minoru Tomita, MD, PhD, executive director of the Shinagawa LASIK Center in Tokyo.
He presented the findings here at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Presbyopia refers to the gradual loss of the eye's ability to focus, making it difficult to see objects up close. It's a natural, albeit annoying, part of the aging process that most people begin to notice in their 40s.
The Kamra corneal inlay is designed to restore near vision without affecting distance vision. It does so by taking advantage of the "pinhole effect," which blocks peripheral rays and only allows focused light to reach the retina. (You can try this at home: Just roll up a piece of paper to create a pinhole-sized opening at one end and a larger opening at the other, and look through it.)
The inlay weighs less than a grain of salt and patients will not feel it, Tomita tells WebMD.
During the 15- to 20-minute procedure, the same type of laser employed in LASIK eye surgery is used to create a flap in the non-dominant eye. The inlay is placed on the cornea layer and centered over the pupil, and the flap is repositioned.
For people who have trouble seeing objects that are far away, simultaneous LASIK laser eye surgery can be used to restore distance vision.
The inlay is not available in the U.S., although maker AcuFocus hopes to gain FDA approval next year. It is available in Europe, Asia, and South America.
The cornea inlay costs about $5,000 to $7,000, "about the same as LASIK," Tomita says.
The new study, funded by AcuFocus, involved people in their 40s, 50s, and 60s who had problems with near and distance vision. LASIK was performed to correct distance vision, and the microscopic ring was implanted to correct near vision.