I-Team: New procedure promises to eliminate need for reading glasses

It's called presbyopia. At least 100 million Americans have it - symptoms usually start around the age of 40 when your near vision starts to fail.   

The cure?  Reading glasses to correct your near vision.  A new procedure is promising to fix the problem, but does it really let you ditch your readers for good?

Without her glasses, Barb Wilhelm couldn't see her computer to work. 

"I do a lot of graphics stuff, and I do a lot of analysis with numbers and Excel.  I really need to see the numbers." 

After about four years of struggling to see things up close, Barb started looking for options and came across a new procedure that basically puts the reading glasses inside the eye.  Barb was one of the first in the U.S. to get the "Raindrop Near Vision Inlay." 

Dr. Mitchell Jackson, an ophthalmologist out of Lake Villa, Illinois started offering the procedure right after it was approved by the FDA last summer. 

"We numb their eye with drops.  There's no shots or needles." 

It uses the same laser as Lasik to make a flap in the clear, front surface of the eye.

"Then I just drop the inlay with some microscopic instruments and position, and we flip the flap back," Dr. Jackson explained.  And that's it.  A 10-minute procedure.

Barb had it 8 months ago.

"Honestly I was like a little kid. I'm like 'I can read that!' There's no glasses!'"

Dr. Jackson has done 100 inlay procedures since July.  Every patient is first screened to see if they're a good candidate.

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"You have to be dependent on readers full time. So anybody 'oh I wear them part time' not a good candidate."

Adjustment time after the procedure is different for everyone.  The inlay is only placed in one eye. Dr. Jackson told us, "you've just changed suddenly overnight how you're seeing, and the brain's gonna go 'whoa, I gotta get used to that.'"

Milwaukee Optometrist Dr. Amy Jankowski points out many people can handle that change in vision, but said seeing this way could strain the eye for some patients.

"If I'm going to sit down and read a book for an hour, or I'm going to look at the computer for a long period of time, that's when I'll put additional correction on top."

Dr. Jankowski doesn't offer the procedure, but cautioned this won't bring back all your near vision.

"I don't think anything, whether it's contacts, or Lasik, or the Raindrop procedure - nothing's going to give you like you're 20 years old again."

It's enough for Barb to ditch her readers, and makes life so much easier.  "You're constantly being able to see as opposed to wait, take time out of life for a minute, I've gotta get my glasses."

Patients' vision will be blurry right after surgery, but most say they can read small print two hours later.  If you don't qualify for this procedure, there may be other surgical options to fix near vision. 

For some patients it can take up to 6 months to adapt to this new way of "seeing."  They may experience glare or a halo effect at night.  According to Dr. Jackson, that will most likely go away.  The upside - the inlay is not permanent.  You can remove it.

Insurance does not pay for the procedure.  It runs around $5,000.

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