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New surgical device may end need for ‘cheater’ glasses

Anybody over 40 who’s gone out to buy a pair of reading glasses during the last few years may not know it, but likely has a condition called presbyopia, in which the lens in the eye can no longer change its shape as effectively as during younger years.

Distance vision may still work well, but when it comes to seeing anything close up – a computer, cellphone or newspaper – your eyes need help.

U.S. Ophthalmologists until recent weeks could help only those with cataracts solve this problem surgically by inserting a device into the cornea as they were removing a cataract.

“You can be dealing with presbyopia but you might have to wait 30 years to develop cataracts,” said Dr. Ephraim Atwal, a Cheektowaga eye surgeon.

The Food and Drug Administration approved use earlier this year of a device called the KAMRA inlay (pronounced “camera” inlay) and Atwal last month became the first doctor in New York State certified to insert the inlay. Atwal – who works with his father, Dr. Amar Atwal, and four other doctors at Atwal Eye Care – called the inlay “a matter of convenience and a matter of cosmetics.” There’s also the matter of cost: about $3,900.

While pricier than a trip to the Dollar Store, the cost in time can be considerable for those who need to slip on a pair of “cheater” glasses every time they want to make a phone call, read a text message or peek at a computer screen, Atwal said. He added that the procedure also can preserve depth perception that can become shaky for those who use a monovision distance contact lens in one eye and near vision contact in the other.

“The KAMRA inlay looks like a sequin in a dress, but if you get under a microscope, you can see how technologically advanced it is. It took 10 years of R&D just to come up with the idea of it,” Atwal said. That, the lone manufacturer, and the fact that the surgery is performed using a $400,000-plus Swiss Zeimer laser helps explain the cost.

During the 4-minute procedure, the laser is used to create a small pocket inside the cornea, similar to LASIK surgery. Atwal uses forceps to place the KAMRA device within the layers of the cornea. Full recovery generally takes up to a month.

The procedure is performed only on the non-dominant eye, Atwal said, “so it doesn’t affect your daily activities. You can still maintain depth perception and there’s minimal to no loss in distance vision.”

For more information, visit atwaleye.com

– Scott Scanlon