Unfortunately, the need for reading glasses is a natural progression of aging. The first signs are the fact that you have to hold this magazine further away to be able to read it, and you also find that you need a good light to be able to see the words clearly. Eventually you run out of arms, and you succumb and buy reading glasses. This means that you have become a slave to your spectacles. Like the Amex card, at your own risk, never leave home without them! Eventually you keep one pair at home, another in the car and another in the office. And your nose gets funny indentations either side of the bridge, where the spectacles settle.
It is important that you understand just why this happens. As you get older, all the ‘elastic’ tissues in your body become less pliable. Knees, lower back, fingers, neck, the list is endless. However, you have to add to that list, the lens in your eye.
The fiddly little lens, supplied at birth as a standard feature, does not have a fixed focus, but under your control you can make it focus close up (to read) and then also focus at a distance, such as when you are following your golf ball as it slices into the water hazard. The way you do this is by ‘bending’ the lens to be able to focus on near objects. Unfortunately, as the lens becomes less pliable, the muscles in your eye become unable to bend the stiffening lens enough to produce the near point focus. The near point moves further away, until you have run out of arms, as described previously. We medico’s call this condition ‘Presbyopia’.
Unfortunately there is yet another result of aging that occurs in the lens of the eye. This is a gradual cloudiness which lowers the visual acuity, slowly lowers your ability to see colours, and eventually brings on blindness. So not only can you not see well enough to read the magazines, but you also begin to lose your distance vision. Welcome to the wonderful world of white sticks and woofing Labrador dogs. If you think this is an exaggeration, currently between 12 and 15 million people are estimated to be blind from cataracts, according to the World Health Organization, and by the year 2020, this will be 54 million people.
The initial method of treating this was by removal of the now optically inefficient natural lens, and attempting to return some usable vision through the introduction of very thick and heavy spectacles placed before the eye. These glasses looked as if the lenses were made from the bottom of Coca-Cola bottles (registered trade mark and all), and were just as heavy. The patient could see again, but reading required even thicker lenses, or hand-held magnifying glasses. Not all that comfortable, but beat the alternative.
However, in 1949, a Dr. Harold Ridley noticed that pieces of shattered Perspex after a penetrating eye injury in aircraft crashes did not produce a reaction within the eye. This was the first step towards production of the Intra-Ocular lenses (now referred to as IOL’s as we medico’s love acronyms). It became possible for us to replace the cloudy hard lens with a clear lens. This too was a hard lens, but optically clear. The patients could see again, but did need reading glasses, as the lens had a fixed focus.
So we come to the latest development in IOL’s. The focusable lens, under the control of the patient’s own intra-ocular (ciliary) muscles. With these lenses you can read your golf scorecard with your near vision, focus on the ball on the tee with your intermediate vision and then using your distance vision watch it gently arcing into the water hazard. (These new IOL’s can improve your sight, but not your golf, I am afraid.)
One of the leaders in this field is the German Akkommodative 1CU lens which represents the latest development in artificial lenses and can provide patients with a better quality of life. This is a lens which is designed to change shape, providing similar functions to a natural healthy lens. These IOL’s meet all the European requirements for implantable medical devices.
We also have Dr. Somchai Trakoolshokesatian who practices at the Bangkok Pattaya Hospital, who is one of the world leaders in inserting these new lenses. His figures after two years of using these IOL’s show a patient satisfaction level after surgery of 94 percent. In addition, 95 percent said they would have the surgery again if it were necessary. 94 percent no longer needed reading glasses, and 97 percent did not need glasses for distance vision. In medicine, we can never give 100 percent guarantees, but 94 percent represents not bad odds, in anyone’s language.
The results have been so outstanding, that medical ‘tours’ are coming to this country to have this operation. Word of mouth and 94 percent satisfaction rates, have been bringing people to Thailand for the operation that can return their sight to what it was when they were 20 years old.
In the words of Dr. Somchai, “SuperSight Surgery is exciting, but it isn’t for everyone. We would like to assure that everyone undergoing a procedure has healthy eyes. However (generally speaking) anyone who is farsighted and unable to see up close, or is now beginning to notice their vision isn’t as good as before, will probably be a good candidate for SuperSight Surgery.”
SuperSight Surgery works best in what are technically known as hyeropic presbyopes, meaning those individuals who are farsighted and have lost the optimal close up focusing ability of their eye’s natural lens. Presbyopes typically wear glasses for close-up work or reading, however because each individual’s situation is different, a consultation with Dr. Somchai is the only way to definitely determine if you are a good candidate for the procedure.
Dr. Somchai again, “We can’t offer guarantees. While SuperSight Surgery does not promise perfect vision, it does hold the promise of reducing one’s dependence on contact lenses or glasses. However, after your initial consultation, we will be able to give you a clear indication as to what you should expect and the likelihood of your achieving it.”
So what does it cost? The current fees for the procedure are USD 4,500 or 3,600 Euro, which include surgery fees, the special lenses, implantation for both eyes and medicines on the day of surgery and one night stay in hospital.
Dr. Somchai can be contacted through his website www.doctorsomchai.com.