Young Eyes for Old; Hinged Implant Gives Cataract Patients Eyesight of Twentysomething
Byline: MARTYN HALLE
SCIENTISTS have developed an eye implant for cataract surgery which can restore a patient's sight to that of a twentysomething - and avoid the need for reading glasses.
Cataracts are caused by a clouding over of the eye's lens. The condition can occur at any time but is most common with old age, and leads to blurring, double images and eventual loss of sight.
In normal cataract surgery, the lens is replaced with an artificial one, which is fixed for distance vision.
This means that glasses are still needed for reading and close work.
But the revolutionary new implant is set on a hinge which allows the eye muscles to move it backwards and forwards - as they would do the natural lens - so that the eye can focus both close up and on the distance.
It should give many middle-aged and elderly people the vision they had 25 years previously, according to eye surgeon Sheraz Daya, who is one of only a handful of specialists using the lens.
'The majority of cataract patients would have been using reading glasses anyway because of the changes in the eye that begin to happen after 40, where the eye loses its ability to focus close up in short and longsighted people.
What the new lens does is to restore what they once had,' he says.
'I have carried out the operation
on about 200 patients and the results have been good in over 75 per cent of them.' In trials of the implant, called Crystal Lens, carried out by the American Food and Drugs Administration (AFDA), the results were even better, at just over 80 per cent.
Mr Daya, who runs the Centre For Sight at the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead, West Sussex, believes that focussing implants are the way forward for cataract patients, but it could be years before such treatment becomes available to patients on the NHS because of the cost.
Hundreds of thousands of cataract operations are carried out each year on the NHS, costing around [pounds sterling]800 per eye treated. When carried out privately, the surgery costs [pounds sterling]1,800 per eye. But the new lens, which is currently available only privately, will cost [pounds sterling]2,500 for each eye.
Putting in the hinged lens is similar to inserting a standard replacement lens after cataract removal. The painless procedure lasts around 20 minutes per eye under local anaesthetic.
First the surgeon makes a tiny hole in the front of the eye and an instrument that emits soundwaves dissolves the cataract-affected lens. …