Can LASIK Improve Reading Vision?

By Vance Thompson, MD

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Are you over age 40 and struggling to read small print with your glasses or contacts? LASIK can help with that.

Modern LASIK surgery can correct reading vision problems caused by presbyopia with a technique called monovision — where the LASIK surgeon fully corrects the refractive errors in one eye and intentionally leaves the other eye mildly nearsighted. The result: the fully corrected eye sees distant objects very clearly, and the nearsighted eye provides sharper near vision without reading glasses.

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If you are considering this option, it's often wise to first try monovision with contact lenses for a short period to make sure you can adapt to the monovision experience before proceeding with monovision LASIK.

Another option is multifocal LASIK — a procedure where the laser reshapes the surface of the eye in a fashion that mimics the appearance of bifocal or multifocal contact lenses. Multifocal LASIK can reduce the need for reading glasses, but there's an increased risk of glare and halos after this procedure, which may be difficult to reverse.

Monovision LASIK is one way to improve reading vision. A corneal inlay is another.

Perhaps an even better presbyopia correction surgery than monovision LASIK or multifocal LASIK is corneal inlay surgery.

In this procedure, a laser is used to create a small pocket in the center of the cornea of one eye, and a tiny optical device (a

corneal inlay or corneal implant) is then placed in this pocket, which self-seals.

The corneal implant increases depth of focus in the treated eye — improving near vision without any significant loss of distance vision. (This is its advantage over monovision LASIK, which improves near vision but causes noticeable loss of clarity of distance vision in the "near" eye.)

FDA-approved corneal inlays used by refractive surgeons in the U.S. to improve reading vision include the Kamra inlay (AcuFocus) and the Raindrop Near Vision Inlay (Revision Optics). Another device — the Presbia Flexivue Microlens (Presbia) — has received the CE mark allowing the lens to be commercially available across Europe, but it is not yet FDA approved for use in the United States. [Read more about corneal inalys.]

A corneal inlay procedure can be performed for people who have perfect distance vision without corrective lenses and just need help with presbyopia-related reading vision problems. Or it can be performed some time after LASIK for people who also need vision correction for nearsightedness, farsightedness, and/or astigmatism.

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Dr. Vance ThompsonAbout the Author: Vance Thompson, MD, FACS, is the director of refractive surgery at Vance Thompson Vision in Sioux Falls, S.D. He also is professor of ophthalmology at the Sanford USD School of Medicine, a leading researcher in technologies for laser and implant vision correction and a member of All About Vision's editorial advisory board.

[Page updated April 2017]

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