The tiny eye implant replacing reading glasses

Reading glasses could become obsolete thanks to a tiny optical implant that sharpens vision, scientists say.

The implant, a tiny ring placed beneath the eye’s surface in a procedure lasting only 15 minutes, allowed more than 80 per cent of those treated to read a newspaper without glasses, a trial found.

The device, called Kamra, is already available privately in Britain, costing about £5,000 for both eyes.

The latest results provide more convincing evidence that it works in most people whose near vision has declined with age.

John Vukich, an ophthalmologist at the University of Wisconsin, in Madison, who led the study, said that the technology could remove the need for people to constantly change glasses as they switch between activities such as reading and driving. “This is a solution that truly delivers near vision that transitions smoothly to far distance vision,” he said.

About 23 million people in Britain suffer from presbyopia, or age-related long-sightedness. It is caused by a hardening of the eye’s lens, which reduces the eye’s ability to thicken the lens to focus on close-up images.

The implant is a thin, flexible ring that measures 3.8mm across, with a 16mm hole in the middle. In the procedure a laser is used to make an incision in the cornea – the transparent front of the eye – and the inlay is inserted so that it sits around the pupil.

The device works like a pinhole camera, reducing the amount of light entering through the edges of the pupil. By cutting out the peripheral beams, which are the most difficult for the lens to focus on to the retina, a sharp image can be restored.

The procedure takes less than 15 minutes and can be performed in an eye surgeon’s office. Sutures are not required and topical anaesthesia, in the form of eye drops, is used.

The findings, which were presented at the 118th annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology at the weekend, were based on a trial of 507 patients between the ages of 45 and 60 years. The researchers implanted the ring in the patients and followed them over the course of three years. In 83 per cent of cases, the patients could see with 20/40 vision or better- well enough to read a newspaper. On average, patients gained three lines on a reading chart.

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