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Tuning in to Better Vision
Excerpt By Colette Bouchez, HealthScoutNews

If you're tired of spending a fortune on wrinkle treatments only to have those reading glasses give away your true age, then this news is for you: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just approved a new procedure that should help aging baby boomers read more clearly without glasses.

Called CK -- short for conductive keratoplasty -- the minimally invasive treatment uses the controlled release of radio waves to reshape the cornea, letting those with mild to moderate farsightedness read without corrective lenses. Currently, laser eye surgery -- which involves the cutting and removing of eye tissue -- is the standard treatment for these vision problems.

"CK allows patients who find they need reading glasses once they pass age 40 to see clearly again at close range, with 95 percent of patients in the clinical trails achieving normal or near normal vision," says Dr. Penny Asbell, director of the Cornea Service and Refractive Surgery Center at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, where some of the clinical trials on CK were conducted.

Farsightedness -- also known as hyperopia -- occurs when light meant to shine on the surface of the retina actually focuses behind it. This, says Asbell, occurs because the cornea is flatter than what is seen in a normal eye.

When people are young, hyperopia often doesn't interfere with vision. That's mainly because the lens of your eye adapts easily to different focusing situations, accommodating for deficiencies caused by the flattened cornea.

However, once we pass age 40, we start to lose that ability to adapt. So, it becomes increasingly difficult to read a book, a menu or a computer screen.

CK makes the cornea rounder, which once again lets the eye adapt to various focusing situations.

"With CK, we use tiny pulses of radio frequency energy delivered to the eye via a ultra-thin probe, to shrink tiny bits of tissue around the cornea," Asbell explains. This forms a kind of band around the cornea, which, much like a belt that cinches in the waist, pulls in the cornea and forces it to take on a more rounded appearance.

"This is much closer to the shape of a normal cornea, so close vision is now possible without glasses," Asbell says.

Unlike its predecessor, LASIK laser eye surgery, CK never touches the area of the eye directly involved with vision, Asbell says. There is no cutting involved, and no tissue removed. As such, Asbell claims there is virtually no chance for damage to occur during the procedure.

The CK treatment, which takes just three minutes and requires only anesthetic eye drops, also lets patients see clearly almost immediately.

In addition, Asbell, who performs both laser eye surgery and CK, says CK appears to be free of some of the common side effects linked to laser surgery -- such as night blindness, glare and halo effects.

As good as it sounds, however, not all ophthalmologists agree it's any better than the more established laser procedure.

"This doesn't accomplish anything that we can't do with the laser eye surgery, plus there is no long-term follow up on CK. We don't know if the vision correction is permanent, or if these patients are going to need another procedure down the line to maintain their vision," says Dr. Sandra Belmont, director of the Laser Vision Correction Center at New York Weill Cornell Medical Center. Belmont does not perform CK surgery.

The longest follow-up on CK is about two years, and Asbell says no vision problems have been reported.

However, Belmont points out that not all people in the study achieved full correction of their vision with CK. So, there's no guarantee you won't have to wear reading glasses after all. This could also happen with laser surgery, she adds.

Perhaps the biggest caveat with CK, Belmont says, is it can't be used on patients with an astigmatism -- a condition that causes an irregularly shaped cornea. Laser surgery can treat these patients.

"CK is really for a small segment of patients -- those with low hyperopia (mild farsightedness), without astigmatism, over age 40. But if you have any astigmatism and require anything more than a mild vision correction, the best choice is LASIK," Belmont says.

Asbell does not agree completely: "While CK can't be done on those with astigmatism, it can be very helpful, even in moderate hyperopia. And for the person who otherwise has good vision but simply requires reading glasses after age 40, this can be a fast, easy, effective and very safe treatment."

It is considered so safe that, during clinical trials, the FDA let patients have both eyes done at the same time, something that's rarely done in eye surgery.

What To Do

For more information on CK, visit Refratec or check out the Refractive Source.

For more on hyperopia and laser eye surgery, visit St. Luke's Cataract and Laser Institute.

To learn more about LASIK eye surgery for all forms of vision correction, check out The LASIK Institute.

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