PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Eyes not what they used to be? You’re not alone.

Millions of people over the age of 45 need reading glasses. But what if you could restore your vision without them?

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Mature eyesight is often in need of some help. So, many turn to reading glasses.

“I had one by the computer at work, one at home, and I like gourmet cooking, so I had one in the kitchen,” said Valerie Martel. “I must’ve had 10 or 15 pairs of those.

“As we get into our mid-40s, whether you had good vision when you were young, or not, has that stiffening of the lens, which causes us to need reading glasses,” Dr. Ralph Chu, an ophthalmologist, says.

The condition is called presbyopia.

“Everybody over age 45 becomes presbyopic,” says Dr. Colman Kraff, of the Kraff Eye Institute. “And it’s tens of millions of people over the age of 45 that just need reading glasses alone.”

“So many people don’t want to wear glasses or are concerned with glasses,” adds Dr. John Guehl, of West Penn Hospital ophthalmology.

For that reason, a procedure has been developed to help people read without glasses. It’s called a corneal inlay.

In a manner similar to Lasik, with a 15-minute procedure, the surgeon makes a flap in the clear, front part of one eye and puts in a lens. This brings small images into sharper focus.

“They could expect to read normal-sized print without glasses in normal ambient lighting,” Dr. Guehl says.

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You have to have enough thickness to your cornea, so previous Lasik patients may not be able to have this procedure. The strength of the needed reading glasses must be within a certain range. And some people may have problems afterwards.

“Glare, inability to maintain a certain focus, difficulty in different lighting conditions,” says Dr. Guehl.

“Our concerns are one, will they move or migrate? Will they affect the corneal health?” adds Dr. Neal Sher, an ophthalmologist. “We’re not doing this on 21-year-olds. Presumably, you’re doing it on 50-year-olds, who are already starting to have dry eyes.”

“It is largely reversible if there are problems,” says ophthalmologist Dr. Robert Arffa.

Corneal inlays are not yet FDA approved, and enthusiasm for them is mixed.

“There would be a very small population that would one, be candidates for it, and two, be able to afford it. This would be the type of a procedure that would be an out-of-pocket, cosmetic-type expense,” said Dr. Guehl. “You see things that come along and look like the newest, bestest thing, and then two years later, or later on there’s trouble.

For now, the two patients who had the procedure done as part of a research study are doing fine.

“It has worked out wonderfully for me. It’s five years,” said patient Dennis Lesiak.

“I’m free. I can read. And I don’t have to be looking for glasses,” Martel said.

The FDA is asking for more long term study. The procedure will be up for approval again sometime next year. Right now it costs $3,500 to $5,000 at approved sites overseas.

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