Around the ages of 40 or 50, if you start noticing symptoms like eye strain, difficulty seeing in the dark, or trouble focussing in on small objects or fine print, you’re probably developing presbyopia, which is an eye condition that affects over 1 billion people around the world.
Currently, the condition is treated using laser surgery, but this isn’t an ideal solution, because glasses are often still required for reading in a dim light. And because the lasers work by removing part of the cornea, which allows it to be reshaped, the problem reoccurs once the cornea has flattened itself out again over time.
So researchers in the US and the UK have come up with a better solution, and they’re calling it the Raindrop.
The Raindrop is a minuscule implant made from a water-based substance called hydrogel, which is what contact lenses are made from. It’s about the size of a pinhead, and it’s inserted inside the cornea to slightly and permanently increase its curvature to improve its focus. The first implantations of the Raindrop have been carried out recently in a clinic in Warwickshire, England.
“I was diagnosed with presbyopia – losing my near sight,” Lynda Marenghi, a 57-year-old British school bursar who was the first person to receive a Raindrop implant, told Sarah Knapton at the Telegraph. "It’s an age-related thing and meant I had to wear glasses more and more which was awful because, being a school bursar, I have to deal with a lot of close work and spreadsheets on computers. I had my Raindrop put in – it took 10 minutes and I haven’t needed reading glasses since.... It’s been absolutely life-changing.”
At the Telegraph, Knapton describes the procedure as being virtually painless:
"Anaesthetic droplets are inserted so the patient remains conscious throughout as the inlay is inserted into a flap in the cornea, the clear part at the front of the eye. The inlay corrects near and medium vision by adjusting the curvature of the cornea, causing its central section to become slightly steeper. The procedure costs £2,495 [$AUD 4,445] and is not currently available on the NHS [National Health Service].
“Raindrop can’t stop eyes from ageing,” said Mark Wevill, a surgeon at the Leamington Spa, where the procedure is being carried out. “But it can help correct the natural deterioration in eyesight caused by the ageing process. It appears to be the perfect long-term solution for people whose eyes are simply getting tired with age and who need reading glasses to read a book or a computer screen.”