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  • Eye Muscle Stimulation May Delay the Need For Reading Glasses

    Published Nov. 22, 2016

    Researchers are testing a new method for treating presbyopia with electrostimulation to help delay the need for reading glasses. This painless technique uses electric signals to “exercise” the eye muscle that controls your close-up vision.

    The eye’s ciliary muscle, located behind the lens of the eye, is what controls our near vision. When this muscle contracts, it changes the shape of the lens to allow us to see up close. As we age, our lens loses flexibility, making it harder to change shape effectively and making near vision blurry.

    Italian researchers wanted to find out whether using electrostimulation to strengthen the ciliary muscle could correct early presbyopia in people who are not yet dependent on reading glasses. Electrostimulation is used already to treat certain health issues, including other eye conditions such as glaucoma and macular degeneration. One of the benefits of this technique is that it does not require surgery. This is a distinct advantage over invasive refractive surgery for treating presbyopia.

    The study’s researchers treated 46 people who had mild presbyopia with electrostimulation. To do this, they placed a contact lens-shaped device on the patient’s eye. This device is connected to a micro-current generator with tiny cables. The contact lens sends a mild electric current to the eye, activating and exercising the ciliary muscle to make it stronger. The patient feels a small, painless tingling in the eyeball and eyelid. Study participants had four eight-minute treatments in two months and then continued maintenance treatment once every three months.

    The researchers found that the procedure improved patients’ near vision by a little more than 2-1/3 inches. In addition, their overall near and intermediate vision increased by almost one line on the eye chart. Researchers also noticed the participants’ lens thickness increased, as well as a positive change in the curvature of their lenses. Distance vision, however, was not affected.

    The length of benefit from electrostimulation varied among the study participants. Some people needed treatment every two months to maintain near vision, while others maintained near vision for almost four months without treatment.

    The device has not been submitted for FDA approval. The researchers say that studies with longer patient follow-up should be done to confirm their findings.