Breakthrough cornea transplants could end the need for reading glasses in future using donated corneas.
John Parkes, 53, said he was able to read small print minutes after the surgery
Mr Parkes was part of a clinical trial of 100 patients to test the new surgery.
A leading eye specialist is pioneering a revolutionary cornea transplant that could end the need for reading glasses.
Ophthalmologist Sheraz Daya recently carried out the first UK operation which involves placing a tiny piece of wafer-thin donated cornea at the front of the eye.
Company director John Parkes, 53, who became the first British recipient of donated cornea earlier this month, said he was able to read small print without glasses within minutes of the procedure, performed under local anesthetic.
“I was amazed how instantly I could see without glasses, after years of struggling,” he said. “Before I’d even got home, I’d good close-up vision. It’s transformed my life.”
“I run a company that supervises the erection of the steel frames of buildings so I have to look at architects’ plans to make sure the right steels go in place.”
“A lot of writing is very small and I am often working at night on projects where there is 24-hour building activity. I would constantly be losing my glasses or having to take them on and off to switch to distance.”
“I’ve lost count of how many pairs of glasses I’ve damaged or lost, but I now have 20-20 vision in both eyes which is better than I had before.”
The procedure, conducted at the private Centre for Sight clinic in East Grinstead, West Sussex, involved Mr Daya cutting a thin flap in the top of Mr Parkes’s cornea, the clear surface of the eye that allows in light with a low-powered laser.
He then inserted a 3mm dot of corneal tissue, a quarter as thick as a strand of human hair and closed up the tiny incision.
The transplant sufficiently changed the direction of light rays entering Mr Parkes’s eye for the previously far-sighted patient to be able to focus on nearby objects again.
Far-sightedness is progressive and caused by the gradual stiffening of the natural lenses in eyes as people age. It makes it harder for the eye muscles to pull the lenses into a rounder shape, which is required to focus properly on nearby objects.
However, the addition of a convex layer in the form of the corneal transplant thickens the focusing equipment and solves the problem. Laser eye surgery, which reshapes the cornea, produces a similar result but unlike the transplant is irreversible.
While laser surgery is popular and usually successful, Mr Daya said results could be variable. ‘The beauty of this procedure is you are adding material, not taking it away,’ he said. ‘If it doesn’t work for some reason, it can be removed and you can add in a different sized corneal inlay.’
A patient has only one eye treated, even if they are far-sighted in both because the brain is able to create a ‘blended vision’ giving the impression of almost perfect distance and near sight.
Mr Parkes’s operation was part of a global trial of 100 patients sponsored by US firm Allotex, which ‘makes’ the corneal implants. The corneas come from willing donors after their deaths.
If the trials are successful, the procedure is likely to become available to patients next year.