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Revolutionary Intraocular Lens Treats Combined Eye Conditions at Once

Australians suffering from cataracts and pre-existing astigmatism, short sightedness or long sightedness can now benefit from a revolutionary intraocular lens (IOL) which treats the combined eye conditions at once and removes the need for distance glasses in 97 per cent of patients following surgery.

The new generation Acrysof® Toric IOL is a flexible, artificial lens that is used to replace a natural, clouded, cataract lens and to correct corneal irregularities such as astigmatism (the most common eye condition affecting 75 percent of the population) at the time of cataract removal.

The lens is made of soft, biocompatible material especially designed for use in the human body. Its tacky nature allows the lens to directly adhere to the eye capsule within a few hours after surgery, minimising movement and rotation in the eye.

According to leading Ophthalmic Surgeon, Dr Rick Wolfe, co-founder of the Australasian Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons and the first surgeon to implant the Toric IOL in Australia, this new generation lens is the first of its kind that treats both cataract and another pre-existing eye condition simultaneously.

“Around 185,000 (private and public) cataract operations will be performed in Australia this year, making it the most commonly performed eye surgery procedure in Australia. Traditionally people have surgery to remove their cataract and are then faced with a second operation, usually laser eye surgery, or dependence on glasses to treat their astigmatism or short-sightedness.

“This breakthrough lens is a significant improvement on previous intraocular Torics which have only had a 50 percent success rate at best, for it corrects common, combined eye conditions in just the one simple procedure,”said Dr Wolfe.

“Around a third of all people requiring cataract surgery have significant astigmatism. These people have worn glasses all of their lives. If they are offered the new Toric implant, they should be completely cured of their astigmatism in addition to their pre-existing long or short sightedness, and are able to throw away their distance vision glasses for good.”

During the operation, the lens is aligned to each patient’s specific direction of astigmatism. The foldable IOL expands into position and is held in place by two extendable arms which further prevent it from moving inside the eye capsule. The lens also contains ultraviolet (UV) and blue light absorbers to protect the eye from potentially damaging rays.

Cataracts are cloudy areas that form in the natural lens of the eye and obstruct vision. They are the most common cause of treatable blindness worldwide and usually require surgical removal and replacement of the natural lens of the eye. Half of all Australians over 60 years of age have cataracts and by 70, almost everyone will have some degree of cataract formation.

Yet new Galaxy research suggests that as many as 600,000 older Australians have not seen an eye care professional in the past two years, a concerning figure, given the need for regular eye health checks among the older population.

The research also examined patient understanding and familiarity with common eye conditions, revealing over-reporting of short-sightedness (51% anecdotally vs 15% clinical evidence) and long-sightedness (40% anecdotally vs clinical evidence 6%) and under-reporting of cataracts (41% anecdotally vs 50% clinical evidence in those aged 65 years or older) and astigmatism (12% anecdotally vs 75% clinical evidence).

While there is reasonable community awareness about treating cataracts with surgery, the research shows that 24 per cent of older Australians are actually unaware that cataracts can be treated and only 14 per cent of older Australians believe astigmatism can be completely cured while 45 per cent would prefer to correct astigmatism with glasses rather than surgery (21 per cent). However, when the new Toric lens procedure was explained to them, 71 per cent or an equivalent 3.2 million Australians, agreed that a single procedure to correct both conditions at once would be the preferred treatment option.

“The research has given us new insights into Australian eye health awareness,” Dr Wolfe said.

“Astigmatism in particular is very poorly understood and there needs to be heightened community awareness of this condition. There also appears to be some confusion between astigmatism and short sightedness, although it is fair to say that most people with astigmatism also lean towards short sightedness.”

Most Australians have some form of astigmatism from birth, while short sightedness typically occurs during adolescence and is usually a combination of genetic and environmental factors. In both instances however, people may be unaware that they have either condition until it is diagnosed by an eye examination.

The most common cause of cataract formation is age, followed by prolonged unprotected exposure to the sun, smoking, family history, eye injury, diabetic complications and other medical conditions.

According to the research, lower income earners (under $40,000) are more prone to cataracts (31 per cent) while only 15 per cent of those earning over $70,000 suffer from cataracts.

In contrast, short sightedness appears to increase with income, with 58 per cent of those earning over $70,000 suffering from short sightedness compared to 49 per cent of people earning less than $40,000.

Australia leads the world in eye surgery and is often at the forefront of embracing new technologies. The new Toric lens was first trialled in Australia by a select group of surgeons and is expected to be launched in other countries later this year. To date, approximately 4,500 Toric lenses have been implanted in Australia and more than 30,000 world-wide since July 2006.

The Toric lens is suitable for two main groups – mainly those with cataracts who have some pre-existing astigmatism and others who wish to correct their astigmatism and short sightedness or long sightedness.

The total annual government direct cost of treating cataract is more than $327 million. Among those patients who undergo cataract operations, up to 30 per cent are suitable for implantation with the Toric lens.

Surgery with the new Toric is performed under intravenous sedation with local anaesthetic drops for the eye. It is a quick, 20-minute Day Surgery procedure.

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