Dysfunctional Lens Syndrome
The natural lens of the eye is a rounded structure with good flexibility. This part of the eye has several tiny structures that work together to flex and flatten the rounded shape as needed to observe objects at varying distances. With age, this ability decreases. We have come to know this condition as Dysfunctional Lens Syndrome.
What Is Dysfunctional Lens Syndrome?
Dysfunctional lens syndrome also referred to as DLS, is a progressive condition in which the natural lens of the eye becomes more rigid and opaque. The loss of visual acuity occurs so slowly in most cases that early deterioration often goes unnoticed. Treatment eventually becomes necessary to improve vision.
What causes dysfunctional lens syndrome?
Dysfunctional lens syndrome is a progressive condition that develops in the lens of the eye. When healthy, the lens of the eye is rounded. This structure is held in place by zonules, a series of small fibers that connect the lens to a small muscle known as the ciliary body. When the ciliary body is relaxed, the zonules are tighter, which flattens the eyes’ lenses. When the lenses are flat, objects in the distance come into focus. When the lens is rounded, like a magnifying glass, objects up close come into focus.
With age, the eyes’ lenses become less elastic. This prevents them from springing back into a rounded shape as they once did. Being flatter, the lenses then fail to accommodate near vision.
Who is at risk for developing dysfunctional lens syndrome?
Dysfunctional lens syndrome is a precursor to cataract development and may share many of the same risks. These include age, smoking, exposure to UV light without adequate eye protection, family history, gender, and ethnicity. While some factors are outside of our control, others are, such as lifestyle habits, nutrition, and wearing sunglasses.
Who is a good candidate for dysfunctional lens syndrome treatment?
Healthy adults who want to improve and preserve vision can be good candidates for dysfunctional lens syndrome treatment that is customized to their needs. In the first stages of this condition, patients may choose to correct vision through LASIK only. As the lens becomes more significantly affected, treatment options such as lens replacement may be more appropriate.
We seek to improve each patient’s vision by addressing their unique situation. Appropriate treatment options are identified after comprehensive consultation and examination.
Signs you have Dysfunctional Lens Syndrome
Dysfunctional lens syndrome is a natural part of the aging process. The lens starts to age early in life but does not begin to lose flexibility until sometime after age 40. The symptoms of lens inflexibility occur gradually and may include:
- A need to use reading glasses for labels and then for books and other print.
- Becoming more sensitive to glares and halos around light sources.
- Greater difficulty transitioning from near to distance vision (accommodation).
- Decreased night vision.
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Stages of Dysfunctional Lens Syndrome
The earliest stage of DLS affects one’s ability to focus on objects that are up close. Focus begins to change within the first years of life. Typically, a one-year-old can clearly observe objects immediately in front of the face. By age two, objects need to be slightly farther away before the eyes will focus on them. This process of lens deterioration continues indefinitely. It isn’t until around the age of 40 when most people develop noticeable difficulty focusing 14 to 16 inches from the eye (about the distance one would hold a book). For some time, it may help to move the book farther away but, eventually, most people need magnification to increase print size large enough to read. In stage one, the lens is still clear and relatively healthy; just a little stiff.
DLS progresses to stage two when the proteins that form the lens become discolored. Typically, the eye’s lens is completely clear. Discoloration within protein fibers minimizes the amount of light that can pass through the eye. As a result of diminished light, symptoms like blurring and glare become more prominent.
As the proteins of the eye clump together and darken in their discoloration, a cataract forms. Cataracts can eventually turn a dark brown color before then turning completely white. The development of cataracts means that proteins on the eye’s lens are continually accumulating over the part of the eye that allows light through to the retina. In time, the lens will need to be removed to prevent blindness.
Dysfunctional Lens Syndrome Treatment Options
There are treatment options that can support optimal vision at any stage of DLS.
During stage one DLS, a person may wear reading glasses or bifocals to correct refractive error. Those who wish to reduce their need for eyeglasses may consider laser vision correction such as LASIK. This procedure may work best if performed only on one eye, as this may improve how the eyes work together to form vision. A corneal inlay such as the KAMRA inlay may be ideal for people who have good distance vision and want to improve near vision.
People with stage two DLS may achieve better results from Refractive Lens Exchange surgery than they would from laser vision correction. This procedure takes less than 30 minutes per eye. During the brief surgery, the ophthalmologist removes the discolored lens from the affected eye and inserts an intraocular lens (IOL). This artificial lens can address not only the discoloration of the lens but also vision problems like astigmatism.
What to Expect After Dysfunctional Lens Syndrome Treatment
Treatments performed to address dysfunctional lens syndrome include altering or replacing the natural lens of the eye. Eye surgeries such as KAMRA inlay and Refractive Lens Exchange are streamlined procedures that are expected to achieve good to excellent results in most patients. After DLS treatment, vision may improve gradually. Over time, patients may no longer need eyeglasses. During our consultation, we discuss our recommendations and expected outcomes in an attempt to ensure all questions are answered.
What happens if dysfunctional lens syndrome is left untreated?
Dysfunctional lens syndrome occurs in stages. Without treatment, the lens of the eye will progressively thicken and become less flexible. As this happens proteins build up on the lens, clouding vision with cataracts. None of these changes lead to permanent vision loss. However, vision does worsen until the clouded lens is replaced.
Is dysfunctional lens syndrome painful?
No. Dysfunctional lens syndrome is a natural change that affects a large percentage of adults. The thickening and stiffening of the lens of the eye do not cause any symptoms other than changes in vision.
What are the risks of dysfunctional lens syndrome treatment?
The risks of dysfunctional lens treatment may vary slightly depending on the treatment that is performed. General risks associated with corrective eye surgeries include infection, blurred vision, halos or glares that affect night vision, and over- or under-correction. Should you choose to explore treatment for dysfunctional lens syndrome with us, we will provide detailed information pertaining to your case at the time of your consultation.
Schedule a Consultation
For more information about the diagnosis and treatment of dysfunctional lens syndrome, contact Jacksonville Eye Center. Call us at 904-355-5555 to schedule a consultation. Our practice serves Jacksonville, Florida and surrounding areas.