Dear Savvy Senior: I'm 46 years old and have always had good all-around vision, but last month I had to break down and get some granny glasses because I can't see up close anymore.

I've heard about a new "non-surgical" procedure that could correct my close-up vision (so I can do away with the glasses), but I can't remember the name of it. Can you help me? I also would like to know if there are any new cataract treatments or procedures that can help my mother.

? Short-sighted Sue

Dear Sue: The close-up vision problem you're dealing with is known as presbyopia, an age-related eye condition that affects more than 100 million Americans, usually beginning in their 40s.

Most people deal with presbyopia with reading glasses, bifocals or contact lenses, but today there's a variety of new treatment options to consider.

Non-evasive treatments

The new "non-surgical" procedure you asked about is called conductive keratoplasty (CK), which corrects presbyopia by using radio waves to reshape the cornea and improve close-up vision.

The best candidates for CK are people over age 40 with good distance vision but need reading glasses. CK takes only a few minutes, requires an eye-drop anesthetic and is usually performed on only one eye. The other eye is left untreated to handle distance vision.

The good news about CK is that it doesn't involve any cutting, so it's safe and effective. But the bad news is it's only a temporary fix that will last a few years and will have to be repeated if you want to keep close-up vision clear.

Also, for some people CK can cause problems with depth perception. In most cases CK is not covered by insurance and typically cost $1,500 to $2,000.



Other treatments

? LASIK ? A commonly used laser surgery procedure that reshapes the cornea to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism and can also treat presbyopia.

This is a quick procedure that is performed on one eye costing $1,500 to $2,000 and is rarely covered by insurance. This option is best suited for patients over age 40 who have poor distance vision and need reading glasses, too.

? Clear Lens Extraction (CLE) ? A surgical procedure for people over age 40 whose vision is too poor to be corrected by laser surgery.

This procedure involves removing the eye's natural lens and replacing it with one of several new FDA-approved artificial lenses (Crystalens, ReStor lens and ReZoom lens) that are designed to provide clear vision at all distances. CLE costs $4,000 to $5,000 per eye and it's typically not covered by insurance.

Savvy Tip: If eye surgery makes you uncomfortable, ask your doctor about bifocal contact lenses or getting a single contact lens for your non-dominate eye.

Both of these options are risk free, cost only a few hundred dollars and the results can be as good as CK, LASIK or CLE.



Cataract lens for reading

Cataract surgery is one of the safest and most successful surgical procedures that has recently gotten a little better. In a typical cataract surgery, the surgeon will remove the clouded lens and replace it with a conventional intraocular lens (IOL), which can help restore distance vision but will still require you to use eyeglasses for reading and other close-up activities.

But now, with the new FDA approved artificial lenses (the same as offered with the CLE procedure) cataract patients' sight can be restored at both near and distant ranges so they can go glasses free.

This new lens option typically costs around $4,500 per eye. Medicare currently covers cataract surgery up to around $2000, so if you opt for the new lenses, you will have to pay the extra $2,500.



Choosing a doctor

The best way to find a good eye surgeon is to ask your family doctor, optometrist or ophthalmologist for referrals, or visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology's Web site at www.aao.org and click on "Find an Eye M.D."

Also, visit www.allaboutvision.com for more information on eye health, vision correction options and how to select a good eye surgeon.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman OK 73070, or visit www.savvysenior.org. Jim Miller is a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Senior" book.

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