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Implantable Lens Helps Nearsighted

The Food and Drug Administration recently gave the thumbs-up to the first implantable corrective lens for use in the United States.

The Verisyse lens is designed for patients with such severe myopia, or nearsightedness, that LASIK surgery won't help them, reports The Early Show's Dr. Emily Senay. There are an estimated 3 million Americans who fit that description, Senay says.

Aerospace engineer Brian Martin, who restores the luster to antique cars as not only a hobby, but a passion, had a Verisyse lens implanted.

He told Senay his failing sight had taken away some of the fun: "My uncorrected vision is minus-16, which is easily legally blind. At arms length, I probably couldn't tell you how many fingers you were holding up."

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For most of his life, Brian relied on glasses and traditional contact lenses to correct his vision, but they had their drawbacks, and LASIK wasn't an option because his cornea was too thin. So when he heard about Verisyse, he jumped at the opportunity.

The result? "It was nothing short of miraculous to be able to get up in the morning and see well," Martin says.

Dr. Eric Donnenfeld, an ophthalmologist, explains that, "The Verisyse lens is really dedicated to the patients who are the most dependant upon glasses, the people who can't see at all, the people who are the most visually challenged can now be rehabilitated and see perfectly."

The procedure takes about 20 minutes and involves inserting a plastic lens behind the cornea. The lens then acts like a permanent contact lens.

What's more, Donnenfeld points out, unlike with LASIK, this lens can always be removed if a problem develops: "If, down the line, a patient decides that they don't want the lens in their eye or there are other options available with new technology, the lens is replaced and the eye is back to where it started from."

The Verisyse lens doesn't come cheap, Senay notes, costing between $3,000 and $4,000 per eye. But patients like Brian tell her it's well worth the price to finally be able to see well.

The lens has actually been available in Europe for about 15 years.

The side effects can include a halo-like effect. And some people develop cataracts, but doctors don't know if those patients would have developed the cataracts anyway. In general, the side affects have been very minor.

Unfortunately, says Senay, not everyone LASIK wouldn't help could be helped by Verisyse. People with certain eye diseases, such as macular degeneration, are not candidates for Verisyse, either.

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