New Media Producer: Brad Maglinger
Every three minutes, someone in the U.S. is diagnosed with macular degeneration, one of the leading causes of blindness. A new type of surgically implanted lens is helping to ward off this disease of the retina, while curing cataracts at the same time.
Evansville ophthamologist Dr. David Malitz makes a tiny incision in the side of the eye, while performing a cataract correction surgery. He then slides in an instrument that emits ultrasonic sound waves. The sound waves soften the lens and break it up into small pieces that are vacuumed out of the lens capsule. The new plastic lens is then slid in and unfolds into place.
It's a surgery that Dr. Malitz has performed hundreds of times, but it's only the second time he's used the new lens. It's called the Acrysof natural intraocular lens, it is tinted yellow so it will absorb blue light. That's the most active light in the visible spectrum, which is believed to damage the retina and cause macular degeneration.
"It's estimated that this lens is going to be the most popular lens of any lens. It's the first of its kind," says Dr. Malitz. "In three to five years, it may be the main one that's put in."
The patient's eye won't look yellow and the patient won't see yellow either. In fact, the patient will be seeing quite clearly without the vision impairment associated with cataracts, plus, "It will kill several birds with one stone, basically. Not only does it have the promise of decreasing the risk of macular degeneration, it also has the promise that it will correct his vision for distance," explains Dr. Malitz.
Unlike the standard monofocal lenses, the Acrysof lens can correct either farsightedness or nearsightedness. So, the patient won't need to wear glasses. They won't even need to have stitches after this surgery. The incision is so small, the wound will heal itself.
Dr. Malitz is one of the first surgeons in the country to use the Acrysof lens and as soon as he find the right candidate, he's going to be one of the first to use the new crystal lens which was just approved by the FDA last month. Some are calling it the holy grail of eye surgery because it's the first implant that focuses just like the human eye, so patients can see near and far.
Dr. Malitz is one of only 40 surgeons in the country that's been trained by the manufacturer to use the crystal lens.