The Pros and Cons of Corneal Inlays

The Pros and Cons of Corneal Inlays

If you’re reading this sentence without difficulty, there’s a pretty good (around 60 percent chance) that you’ll eventually develop presbyopia. If you’re squinting and leaning back in your chair, then there’s a pretty good chance you’ve already got it.

Presbyopia, in a nutshell, is age-related loss of the ability to focus on objects close to you. If you find yourself holding restaurant menus at arm’s length just to figure out what you’ll be eating, then you probably know what we’re talking about. While the exact causes of presbyopia are a little murky, most research points to degradation of the crystalline lens, part of the eye’s light-focusing process. There’s not much arguing about the end result though; presbyopia causes loss of visual acuity, eyestrain, and no small amount of annoyance.

Reclaiming Your Vision: Non-Intrusive Options

If you find yourself dealing with this tricky condition, you’ve got some options when it comes to treatment. The most common fix is to find yourself a nice pair of corrective lenses. It’s possible to grab a pair of reading glasses on the cheap from your local pharmacy; if you do, just try on pairs until you find a magnification that seems to fit. However, if you’ve got the time and funds, it’s a much better idea to visit an optometrist, as you’ll wind up with lenses much better suited to your own particular needs – particularly if you’re interested in getting bifocal or progressive glasses.

But, if you just want to avoid corrective lenses all together, the best option is proper nutrition and eye vitamins. A daily routine of eating well and taking vision improving vitamins has been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of presbyopia. Our own regimen of eye vitamin supplements aims to produce optimal results.

The Pros and Cons of Corneal InlaysReclaiming Your Vision: Surgical Options

You’ve probably heard about LASIK. America’s most-publicized eye surgery does indeed come in a presbyopic flavor. PresbyLASIK and similar treatments tackle presbyopia specifically by reshaping the cornea, which helps improve a patient’s ability to focus on near-field objects. However, these options fail to address some of the larger problems at work behind presbyopia, and many people who undergo the procedure still find themselves using reading glasses in low-light situations.

Laser blended vision is another, relatively novel solution. This procedure aims to correct one eye for distance vision, and one for near vision. Between the two, they theoretically cover a wide range of the visual field. And while having an apparent vision imbalance might seem like it’d be a little less than convenient, many users do claim to get used to the transition. A similar, less intrusive technique known as monovision replicates the effect using contact lenses – though it comes with the risk of misalignment for some folks.

Now that we’re talking surgical options, let’s get to the real meat of this article, which is…

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Corneal Inlays

So what exactly is a corneal inlay? You can think of them as a bit like contact lenses, with some important differences. The big one’s pretty obvious: contact lenses sit on top of the cornea (the transparent frontal section of the eye), while corneal inlays are surgically inserted into it. Also, they rely on different mechanisms, as corneal implants can be designed to not only refocus light entering the eye, but to affect the shape of an eye’s lens. More recent inlays even rely on small aperture optics for a supposedly long-lasting vision solution.

And while they may be in the news as “cutting edge,” inlays have actually been around for quite some time. The first inlays popped up way back 1949, as a mix of natural and synthetic materials were tested. All of them were found to have some complicating factors. Eyes are, unsurprisingly, somewhat sensitive places to put an artificial addition. Some of the implants actively damaged the eye by restricting nutrition, and others simply weren’t compatible with the chemical environment.

However, several companies claim to have found solutions in recent years. While no inlays are currently approved for use in the US, they have found markets in other countries, and it looks like it may be only a matter of time before they make their way stateside. What research there is on the inlays has been positive, and failed to find any major long term risks to the procedure. A recent British trial of the Kamra inlay had promising results, as a large majority of participants reported that the donut-shaped device significantly improved their vision.

What to Watch Out For

The FDA looks to be evaluating a few different types of inlay at the moment, and it seems very likely that they’ll soon be available to patients in the US. Still, if you are considering implantation, there are a couple of things to think about.

Safety is always first. Inlays seem to be a largely safe option for vision correction – they’ve been tested, they’ve seen use in other countries, and they’re relatively non-invasive. Like laser eye surgery, inlay implantation takes place in the cornea, the outermost portion of the eye, and the easiest to work with surgically. Additionally, and importantly, recent inlay models are removable.

Still, even with all of this, it’s best to be cautious. Even if the procedure is safe, you should take pains to find a competent practitioner. Laser eye surgery can still have serious complications, including infection and vision defects. Finding a highly-regarded clinic or physician does a lot to cut into those risks, so do your homework before seeking surgery.

Cost is also a consideration. As a new procedure, and an elective one, it may be some time before insurance packages catch up to inlays. And when dealing with your eyes, it’s best not to be cheap, so avoid low-cost offers while on the hunt – they simply just aren’t worth it.

About the Author

Avatar for Tyler Sorensen

Tyler Sorensen is the President and CEO of Rebuild Your Vision. Formerly, Tyler studied Aeronautics with the dreams of becoming an airline pilot, however, after 9/11 his career path changed. After graduating top of his class with a Bachelor of Science degree in Informational Technologies and Administrative Management, he and his brother decided to start Rebuild Your Vision in 2002. With the guidance of many eye care professionals, including Behavioral Optometrists, Optometrists (O.D.), and Ophthalmologists (Eye M.D.), Tyler has spent over a decade studying the inner workings of the eye and conducting research.

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One response to “The Pros and Cons of Corneal Inlays”

  1. Avatar for Greg Gregory Greg Gregory says:

    I discussed this with my Opthomologist this morning and ironically there is a guy on TV right now discussing it as a proponent. My own Optho said it’s definitely an option but that it’s not permanent, something the guy on TV wasn’t asked. Do you need to replace them after a few years? If so, that could buy you a LOT of cheater readers. 🙂

    Also, since it’s in one eye only do you have to learn how to use just that eye to read? I’d assume so.

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