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News & Blog

Leeds Hospital Uses Laser Eye Surgery Implants to Save Sight

26th August, 2014  

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Laser Eye Surgery Isn’t a Miracle Cure

As we’re sure you know by now, over 20 million people across the globe have used laser eye surgery to return to 20/20 –sometimes even better, 20/10 – vision, radically improving their quality of life.

Yet laser eye surgery isn’t a miracle cure. It can’t treat patients with particularly bad eye prescriptions or eye condition.  Traditional laser eye surgery can’t, for example, treat keratoconus.

What is Keratoconus?

What is keratoconus, we hear you ask? Keratoconus is a degenerative eye condition, through which structural changes cause the cornea of the eye to thin. It takes on a more conical shape, rather than the usual gradual curve.

Someone with the condition will experience a significant distortion to their vision. Sensitivity to light, streaking, halos, starbursts and multiple images are the most common symptoms.

Who Suffers from Keratoconus?

However this isn’t a problem that effects everyone. Keratoconus is usually diagnosed in a patient’s adolescent years – which is why you should always invest in regular eye tests.

The condition is known to effect 1 in every 500 people throughout the UK. The condition is thought, however, to occur more frequently within certain ethnic groups, for example the Asian community

How Do You Treat Keratoconus?

In most cases, it’s fairly simple to treat the condition. All you have to do is have your optician diagnose it, and from there, they will prescribe you either corrective contact lenses or glasses. However, in some cases, the condition is so severe is can’t be treated with these measures, and can even lead to the patient in question becoming blind.

At this point we ask, can traditional laser eye surgery treat keratoconus? No. This is because traditional laser eye surgery techniques depend on thinning the cornea. In this case, the cornea is the problem. As it’s already unstable, laser eye surgery procedures would just exacerbate the problem.

A New Laser Eye Surgery Technique to Treat Keratoconus

However times are changing, and laser eye surgery technology is advancing at such a rapid pace, that it appears that ophthalmologists have actually developed a technique to treat the condition.

According to the Yorkshire Post, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust has developed a way to treat keratoconus with pioneering implants using surgical lasers.

What Does this New Keratoconus Treatment Involve?

Considering the fact that the condition effects 1 in 1,000 people throughout the surrounding Yorkshire area – double the national rate – it’s not surprising that surgeons at St James Hospital in Leeds have been working for the past three years to find a treatment for keratoconus.

What they came up with was a painless procedure that takes the grand total of five minutes. The surgeon uses an advanced laser and with it, they craft a tunnel through which a corneal ring – otherwise known as a keraring – can be implanted, which acts to secure the corneas shape.

Laser or Manual?

The surgeon creates the tunnel with a laser, to then implant to keraring. However, doctors have been implanting kerarings manually at St James’ ever since 2007.  S0 what makes the new laser procedure so revolutionary?

Check out this figure. The success rate for installing kerarings manually was a paltry 25%. Hardly even worth the time. The success rate though for laser installation of the keraring is 97% – it works literally nearly every time.

The Goal, To Have a Mild Treatment that Sets Them Up for a Lifetime of Vision

St James’ consultant ophalmic surgeon James Ball shed more light on the new procedure. According to the Yorkshire Post, Ball said that “keratoconus has an impact on people at a time in life when they’re finishing their degrees and starting families – it can be devastating.”

He went on to say that “we want to achieve a generation of people with keratoconus for whom they have a mild treatment that sets them up for a lifetime of vision.”

Don’t Just Take the Good Doctors Word for It

So that was the goal, and it’s a pretty noble one. The numbers seem to suggest that they have achieved it, but numbers aren’t always that persuasive, so let’s turn to the young people who have actually undergone the procedure.

The Yorkshire Post talked to two people who have had the life changing surgery – and they indeed see it as life changing. After being diagnosed two years ago, Moose Awat, a 25 year old retail worker from Batley, is currently undergoing the implant treatment. Awat commented that “at the moment it’s all pluses really.”

Meanwhile back in 2012, Sam Allen, a 36 year old construction worker from Skipton, noticed his vision deteriorate rather dramatically. Scared that he would lose his site, he went to the hospital last year as it was trialling the procedure. Of it, he said that “instantly my right eye was better having had the operation. I feel incredibly lucky.”

A 97% Success Rate Speaks for Itself

A 97% success rate, along with these testimonials, speaks for itself. The fact that this condition effects 1 in every 500 people in this country means a lot of people are living keratoconus. The fact that’s its mostly young people who fall prey to it, means that it robs these people of good opportunities during the prime of life.

That’s why this technique is truly amazing. It gives these people back their quality of life, allowing them to go out into the world and make of it whatever they want. This is just another example of how laser eye surgery is changing people’s lives every single day.

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