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SINGAPORE: Some 100 people – mostly Singaporeans – have gone for a new laser-based treatment for presbyopia (or “lao hua yan”), since it was launched here six months ago.

Presbyopia is a common eye condition that affects people above 40.

57-year-old Hedy Lim, who had been suffering from presbyopia, never got used to wearing reading glasses, even though she had been doing so for the past 15 years.

“My hobbies are actually cooking and also flower arrangement…And especially the cooking recipes right, so it will slow down your process if you need to put on your glasses. Sometimes you cannot find your glasses, that’s where I find that it hinders my life,” she said.

Six months ago, she found a solution to ditch her reading glasses, by going for a laser-based treatment for her presbyopia.

The procedure, called IntraCor, is currently only offered in Europe and Asia, as it is not FDA-approved for the US.

It joins a series of treatments for presbyopia already available here. Other options include lens implants, which involves inserting a tiny polymer material inside the cornea.

For patients like Hedy, the draw of IntraCor is that it is minimally invasive.

Dr Lee Hung Ming, a Medical Director and Ophthalmologist with Parkway Eye Centre and Gleneagles Hospital, said: “IntraCor is a new option to treat presbyopia. It is a femtosecond (one quadrillionth of a second) technology that delivers multiple quick and precise laser to the centre part of the cornea, without cutting any cornea epithelium. This will change the surface and the curvature of the cornea so that the presbyopia is corrected.”

IntraCor is also different from another laser-based treatment, LASIK.

“Unlike LASIK, IntraCor is mainly used to treat presbyopia, whereas LASIK is used to treat myopia. LASIK involves the cutting of the cornea flap – then we lift up the flap, we do the laser to flatten the cornea. Whereas IntraCor does not involve cutting of the flap, nor any external wound.”

“The entire procedure takes only five minutes, and the laser itself takes only 20 seconds to complete. Therefore, the recovery is very fast. Many of my patients could even go jogging, exercise or swimming on the following day.”

Even though IntraCor is minimally invasive, there are still some side effects.

“Some patients would experience seeing haloes and glare at night. Fortunately, most of these symptoms would disappear six months after the surgery. Some patients would complain that the far vision may be a bit affected because IntraCor may induce about 50 to 75 degrees of myopia. But in general, most patients could tolerate this difference,” said Dr Lee.

Dr Lee added that not everyone is suitable to undergo IntraCor. This includes patients with cataract, glaucoma, or overly thin cornea. Those who have undergone LASIK before are also not eligible.

Dr Lee also said the procedure is relatively new. As such there is no data to prove it can permanently correct presbyopia, especially since presbyopia is an ongoing condition.



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