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.
Signs you have DLS
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.
DLS 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 DLS 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 outcome in an attempt to ensure all questions are answered.
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.