It may be possible to restore the near vision lost to age-related presbyopia (also known as far-sightedness) without the use of bifocals or surgery. That’s the encouraging conclusion of a new study performed in Australia, published in the April Optometry and Vision Science (OAVS).
Nature is a poor engineer, and most people over age 45 start to have trouble focusing up-close. The lens of the eye loses its flexibility, and there’s no exercise or magical diet that makes any difference.
As a result, almost all older people need to use bifocals or at least reading glasses — often requiring expensive lenses that can cost several hundred dollars a year.
Researchers Paul Gifford and Helen Swarbrick fitted 16 patients ranging in age from 43 to 59 with a special contact lens that they would wear only in one eye at night while sleeping. The special rigid lens was designed to reshape the cornea, a process OAVS editor-in-chief Anthony Adams compared to wearing a retainer at night to reshape the mouth.
By treating only one eye, the other eye retains its ability to focus at a distance. Surprisingly, the doctors saw an improvement in the patients’ near vision after only one night. However, there was a better and more sustained improvement after the patients had worn the lens for seven nights.
The technique is safe, but, as with any contact lens, the special rigid lens need to be carefully cleaned. Unlike surgery, the structure of the cornea isn’t permanently changed. After seven days without wearing the lens, the patient’s vision will revert to where it was before, since the lens is a presbyopia treatment rather than a cure.
However, for the right patient, the nonsurgical method that allows you to avoid wearing bifocals could be the answer to restoring near vision lost to presbyopia.
[human eye photo courtesy Garretttaggs55 and Wikipedia Creative Commons]