One upon a time, ophthalmic surgeons looked to replace the lens in an eye only when a cataract had advanced far enough. It was the only solution to the condition, whereas other sight problems could be treated in other ways. But today, eye lens replacement procedures can resolve many of the most common eye conditions. Of course, the progress from a cataract replacement lens only to multipurpose status was not immediate. But in truth, as the cataract procedure was perfected, it was only a matter of time before its benefits would have been shared with other treatments.
The modern patient has a selection of procedures and treatments. The development of modern surgical techniques means that, even after cataract surgery, recovery takes only a few weeks. Even the cataract surgery cost has become significantly reduced to an affordable rate, with payment options that have made it accessible to everyone. But still, it was the successful development of lens replacement procedures to treat cataracts that started the whole ball rolling.
How Lens Replacement Developed
The idea of lens replacement is not new. In fact, the first successful operation involving intraocular lens implants was in 1949, when an English eye surgeon, Sir Harold Ridley, performed the surgery. Before this, a cataract lens was simply removed but not replaced. Surprisingly, the logical option to implant a replacement lens was not embroidered by the ophthalmic community, and it was not until the 1970s that the procedure began to become popular.
The lens used by Ridley in the 1949 procedure was made of a stiff plastic, or Perspex, that became known as PMMA, and for decades these inflexible PMMA lenses were used in eye surgeries. The concept itself was sound, but the practical efficiencies were not particularly high. It has only been in recent decades, with lenses reflecting precision design, that the effectiveness has become so high that restored sight is almost perfect.
It was only through the success of cataract operations that the idea of replacing a natural lens to treat other forms of vision failure began to build momentum. With improving levels of success, the procedure was proving to be safe and effective. So, by 1999 the technique had been developed to a stage where confidence amongst surgeons was at an all time high.
Lens Replacement Expands In 1999, intraocular lenses were being used to correct conditions like myopia and hyperopia, with each lens carefully manufactured to focus light more accurately onto the retina on the back of the eye. The fact that replacement lenses had already been successfully implanted into the eye meant that there was little doubt over its success.
The key was the development of refractive lenses that could alter the flow of light through the eye onto the retina. Myopia, or short sightedness, exists when the light converges before the retina so objects from distance are blurred. Hyperopia, or long sightedness, occurs when the light converges beyond the retina, meaning objects up close are blurred.
Through such precision designed lenses, both and either of these conditions can be permanently treated, removing for good the need to wear eye glasses.
The procedures involved in eye lens replacement surgeries, either to replace cataracts or counter flaws in the cornea are simple in concept. A pocket, created in the cornea allows access to the natural lens, which can be removed and then replaced with a flexible modern lens that is implanted as a replacement. The procedure itself takes less than 30 minutes per eye, and with the process itself causing no pain and healing naturally within days indicating that dedicated overnight observation is no longer required. In fact, for refractive lens and cataract surgery, recovery is fast and simple. Patients are given little more than an hour in a recovery suite before being allowed home. The next day, they may even be able to return to work.
The recovering patient just follows simple instructions designed to rest and protect the eyes, while a post surgery consultation takes place after a week. Within 6 weeks, patients can enjoy all the benefits to restored eye sight. And as for affordability, the refractive lens and cataract surgery cost can often be spread over a year, interest free.