READING glasses may become a thing of the past as a new implant revolutionises treatment for ageing eyes.
The Raindrop corneal inlay, no larger than a pinhead, works by increasing the curvature of the cornea, allowing the eye to focus properly again.
Invented in the US, it takes just 10 minutes to insert and the first operations in Britain have been carried out at a clinic in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire.
Until now the only treatment for presbyopia, a condition which makes it hard to focus on small objects, was laser eye surgery.
The disease affects around five million people in Britain and often occurs between the ages of 40 and 50. However, patients who have laser surgery to reshape the cornea often still need reading glasses and their condition can return as the lens flattens again.
Raindrop is made of hydrogel, a substance also used in contact lenses. It was developed at ReVision Optics in California and is inserted using a virtually painless laser procedure.
It is not available on the NHS, however, and currently costs around £2,495.
Lynda Marenghi, 57, a school bursar from Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffs, was the first person in this country to have the operation. She said it had been “absolutely life-changing”, adding: “It was driving me mad having to hold books further and further away and squinting trying to read them.”
Mrs Marenghi said it was delightful not to have to dig in her handbag for her spectacles.
She added: “For the first time in 10 years I no longer need glasses.”
Mark Wevill, an ophthalmic surgeon at Space Healthcare in Leamington Spa, said: “Raindrop can’t stop eyes from ageing but it can help correct the natural deterioration.
“It appears to be the perfect long-term solution for people whose eyes are simply getting tired with age.”