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Surgery targets old eyes

You're tired of pulling out reading glasses so you can — see your cell phone, watch or checkbook without squinting, right? Worse, — you're tired of giving away the fact you're over 40!

With a new non-laser, non-surgical procedure called CK, — you can toss your reading glasses and be spared all this inconvenience — and embarrassment.

Approved in 2002 by Food and Drug Administration, CK (Conductive — Keratoplasty) has

arrived here, and it's not cheap - $2,250 for the testing, — screening and five-minute procedure, which uses radio waves to increase — the curvature of just one eye, leaving the brain to average out what both — eyes see.

CK is painless - they give you a valium and anesthetic — drops in the eye - then, in following a circular pattern (printed on your — cornea in rinse-away ink), they insert a tiny probe, less than the width — of a human hair, in 16 to 18 spots, shrinking the cornea and making it — more curved, so as to allow focusing at close range, said Dr. Paul Imperia — of Medical Eye Center in Medford.

"There's a huge interest in this among the 45 million — people with presbyopia (old eyes)," he said. "This is the one patient — population we've not had a really good solution for since non-surgical — procedures came in 25 years ago."

Presbyopia happens because with age, the lens becomes — less flexible and can't change focus from distance to close-up. The close — image becomes focused behind the retina. "Tightening the belt" around — the cornea, making sides steeper, allows the close image to be focused — on the retina of the less-dominant eye. The brain then averages these — images for close and distance seeing, a phenomenon called monovision, — Imperia said

The procedure is like a time machine on your vision, making — your eyes perform like a younger person's, but it does not stop aging — of the eye. CK hasn't been done long enough to know how it works, say, — after 20 years, but it's expected you'll need "fine tuning" five to seven — years out, using the same procedure and included in the original fee, — Imperia said.

Aside from the cost, considered elective surgery and usually — not covered by medical insurance, CK has no side effects. You have to — avoid dirty water (lakes, baths) for a week. It takes about three weeks — for your vision to fully adjust, but you're back at work the next day, — seeing fine, said Patty Young, operations manager for Imperia Laser Eye — Centers.

The procedure is not for people who need glasses for distance — vision (they need Lasik or laser vision correction) or for those with — macular degeneration, cataracts or glaucoma.

"It's simple and has the highest safety profile of any — procedure. It's non-invasive, there's no possibilty of infection and very — little can go wrong," said Imperia.

CK is made to order for the huge numbers of baby boomers — now in their 40s and 50s who don't want to look old or be inconvenienced — by glasses, said Keith Casebolt, CEO of Imperia Laser Eye Centers. "They — want to be young forever and will do whatever it talkes to do that. It's — probably equal parts vanity and the pain in the neck of wondering where — they left their glasses."

Added Young, "For people who've never worn reading glasses, — it's a huge vanity issue, it's admitting to the world that you've passed — that milestone in aging, so I think a lot of people are going to do it." —

Imperia said, "People who have reading glasses all over — the house but are helpless out in the world, they're seeing this improves — their quality of life quite a bit."

One of Imperia's first patients, Rhonda Albert, 52, of — Klamath Falls, agreed. "I do a lot of paperwork and had to have glasses — in the car, on my desk, everywhere. This freed me up. It only took six — minutes. Afterward they gave me a newspaper to read and I could do it. — I was surprised. It's an amazing difference and I would have paid twice — the amount to get it."