May 2012




"Adjustable focus" spectacles for presbyopia

by Michelle Dalton EyeWorld Contributing Editor

The SuperFocus glasses come in a limited number of frame colors

A woman models the SuperFocus glasses Source (all): SuperFocus

Not all patients are interested in surgical correction of presbyopia. For those who prefer glasses, SuperFocus lenses might be a viable alternative

The presbyopic patient in your office is not interested in surgery but has ongoing complaints about neck soreness or an inability to use the glasses for peripheral vision (such as needing to look at a side mirror while driving). Or maybe the patient simply does not like using multiple glasses for distance and near or has eyestrain after years of monofocal contact lens use. Joseph Fishkin, M.D., private practice, Emerson, N.J., said he encounters this type of patient often. "We're all looking for the perfect solution for presbyopia, but right now there isn't a surgical option that meets those requirements," he said. "Until then, a good number of my patients don't want to consider surgery."

Traditionally, those who opted for spectacle correction of presbyopia were left with limited optionsbifocals, trifocals, or progressives, and each has its own set of detractors. However, Dr. Fishkin said the SuperFocus (Van Nuys, Calif.) glasses are built with an adjustable slider, allowing the user to set the focal length at will. "A big complaint I have from my patients is when they need to use their bifocals or progressive lenses for computer work and end up with neck strain from having to look through a certain section of the lenses," he said. "More and more of my patients seem to like the SuperFocus glasses instead."

According to the company, the SuperFocus glasses are designed "to mimic the natural focusing ability of the youthful eye, and can be manually adjusted by touching a lever on the nose bridge for clear, undistorted focus at any distance." The technology has achieved flight certification from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for use by astronauts aboard the International Space Station, as well as the Space Shuttle Discovery's final space flight, the company said. Additionally, the SuperFocus technology has been awarded the Wall Street Journal 2010 Innovations Silver Award, the Popular Science 2009 Best of What's New Award, and the iF International Forum 2011 Design Award.

How they work

Each lens is actually a set of two lenses, one firm and one flexible. The flexible lens (near the eye) "has a transparent, stretchy membrane attached to a clear, rigid surface. The pocket between the surface and the transparent distensible membrane holds a small amount of clear fluid," the company says on its website. "As the wearer moves the slider on the nose bridge, it pushes on the fluid, altering the shape of the flexible lens." The company declined to identify the "optical fluid" in greater detail, but the concept of using a flexible membrane and a liquid to achieve a range of vision is not a new concept.

Steve Kurtin, Ph.D., developer of the lens, said in a YouTube demonstration that the lenses focus "simply by moving the slider on top of the bridge" and that doing so is usually unnoticed by others since people often touch their glasses. The front lens is customized to an individual's prescription, and the back lens is flexible to provide both intermediate and near vision.

Dr. Fishkin said his patients "neuroadapt in about 1 or 2 days" to the lenses and "after that, it becomes almost second nature. They've got in-focus vision for any activity they may be involved in."

Another advantage Dr. Fishkin cited is that the front lens can be changed when/if a person's prescription changes. They are also designed to "pop off" so patients can use tinted lenses instead.

That's not to say the spectacles are perfect as is, he said. The cost is about the same as high-end progressive lenses (about $800 or so after some options are included), and there are only a few styles available. Indeed, Wired magazine labeled the lenses "OphthalMagic for Muggles," as the lens frames resemble the perfectly round version fictional Harry Potter wears. There is a learning curve of sorts as patients become accustomed to manually altering the view range, although Dr. Fishkin noted it's a much simpler process than it might sound, and most people can adjust rapidly.

And, of course, it's still a pair of glasses. But Dr. Fishkin is sold on the technology, and for those patients who don't want contact lenses or surgery, it may be a good option.

"People who are used to wearing glasses seem to lean toward these glasses more readily than bifocals or progressives," he said. "I've seen a sharp increase in patient interest over time, but I'm sure word of mouth is helping as well."

Editors' note: Dr. Fishkin has no financial interests related to this article.

Contact information

Fishkin: 201-383-9140

"Adjustable focus" spectacles for presbyopia "Adjustable focus" spectacles for presbyopia
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