Corneal Inlays: A Surgical Alternative to Reading Glasses

Presbyopia is a natural condition that most people experience as they age. It is the gradual loss of the ability to focus on close objects. This can be corrected with reading glasses, but for some people, wearing reading glasses isn’t an option. A corneal inlay surgery could be an alternative to reading glasses for these people. A corneal inlay is a tiny, circular medical device that fits into the front part of the eye. It provides clear vision at all distances, similar to how cataract surgery provides clear near and far vision.

What Is Presbyopia?


Presbyopia is a natural condition that occurs as we age. It is the gradual loss of the ability to see near objects clearly. This condition is caused by the lens in the eye becoming less flexible with age. This makes it difficult for the eye to focus on near objects. Presbyopia is sometimes referred to as farsightedness or nearsightedness.

Presbyopia affects almost everybody after the age of 40. The good news is there are solutions for this condition. For some patients, reading glasses can help compensate for presbyopia. However, if the patient has difficulty using reading glasses, he or she may be a good candidate for surgery.

Corneal Inlays Surgery

Corneal inlays are tiny, circular medical devices that fit into the front part of the eye. They are made of plastic or glass and provide clear vision at all distances, similar to how cataract surgery provides clear near and far vision.

The procedure for inserting corneal inlays is typically done as outpatient surgery, but some people may require two separate surgeries. The surgeon makes a tiny incision in the eye and places the device just under the clear part of the cornea. The surgery usually takes between 30 minutes to an hour, depending on which type of inlay is used. Most patients return home the same day and can typically see well almost immediately.

Initially, you may need to wear reading glasses at all times after the surgery. But over time, some people develop better distance vision without needing readers. The doctor can check your cornea for signs of improvement six months after the surgery.

There are two types of corneal inlays: monovision intrastromal corneal ring segments (INTACS) and near vision corneal inlays.

Monovision Intrastromal Corneal Ring Segments (INTACS)

INTACS inlay surgery is a good option for people who only need reading glasses occasionally. The procedure may also be a good choice if your doctor recommends you avoid wearing contact lenses. Surgeons insert INTACS between your cornea and iris (the colored part of the eye). This procedure permanently changes the way light enters the eye. Your brain learns to ignore signals sent from one eye, allowing you to see clearly with both eyes at all distances.

Near Vision Corneal Inlays

For people who need reading glasses regularly, near vision corneal inlays may be a better choice. This procedure is similar to monovision intrastromal corneal ring segments (INTACS) inlay surgery. The main difference is that near vision corneal inlays don’t affect your distance vision, so you may still need reading glasses after the surgery.

The Advantages Of Corneal Inlays Surgery

The advantages of this type of surgery include:

  • Improved vision at all distances, including near and far: The corneal inlay gives you improved near and far vision. This is different than reading glasses, which only help with seeing close objects.
  • Typically a quick, outpatient procedure: This type of surgery typically takes just 30 to 90 minutes. Most patients can leave the same day.
  • May reduce or eliminate the need for reading glasses: Some people may no longer need reading glasses, similar to the way laser eye surgery reduces or eliminates the need for reading glasses.

It is risky?

Corneal inlays are a relatively new technology, so there is limited long-term data on their safety and effectiveness. However, early studies show that the procedure is safe and effective for most patients. Like any surgery, there are risks associated with corneal inlay surgery. Some of the risks include infection, inflammation, and corneal ectasia (a condition where the cornea bulges or thinned out). Your doctor can discuss these risks with you in more detail during your consultation.

What Should I Do If I’m Considering Corneal Inlays Surgery?

If you are considering corneal inlay surgery, you should consult with an ophthalmologist to see if the procedure is right for you. During your consultation, the doctor will evaluate your eyesight and discuss the risks and benefits of the surgery. He or she will also be able to tell you if you are a good candidate for corneal inlays. If you are over 40 years old and began to deal with presbyopia, maybe corneal inlays could be an alternative for reading glasses. If your eyesight is changing, talk to your doctor about solutions.

Corneal inlays are a relatively new option for patients diagnosed with presbyopia. The procedure is typically recommended only after traditional methods of treating presbyopia (such as reading glasses) have failed. Corneal inlays were originally only recommended for specific patients, including those who wear contact lenses and can’t tolerate multifocal lenses. However, newer versions of the implant are now available that may allow more people to benefit from the surgery.