By Adrian Galbreth
As recently as 50 years ago, there were very few means of correcting vision without having to wear bulky glasses or prototype contact lenses, but all that has changed in the last half a century thanks to new inventions coming onto the market and helping people to enjoy a new lease of life.
There are now a number of vision correction options available and literally dozens of different contact lenses that can help people to go about their daily lives without impairment.
However, for some people their vision is so bad that they often have no choice but to suffer from poor vision and let it affect their lives.
One developer is aiming to change all that, however, thanks to a special kind of implant and eye surgery designed by Rayner Intraocular Lenses, a winner of the Queen"s Award for Industry.
The tailor-made T-flex toric intraocular lens (IOL) is an injectable lens developed specifically to correct astigmatism with high precision, at the same time as providing a clear replacement lens for individuals with cataracts.
One of the first people to benefit from it was Jill Lang, a self-employed home-worker from Cirencester who had suffered from shortsightedness her whole life and even struggled to see the blackboard when she was just four years old.
She relied on glasses for day-to-day vision for more than ten years, before receiving one of the first rigid multicurve contact lenses in the world when she was 17 years old.
The then-revolutionary optical aid had a special aspheric shape to minimise visual error while offering a convenient glasses-free method of seeing clearly. After which she moved onto soft gas permeable contact lenses, which worked for some time.
However, two years ago she also developed cataracts and was once again plagued with severe vision problems, at which time she was presented with the opportunity of correcting her lifelong shortsightedness and astigmatism, as well as her cataracts.
The procedure has enabled her to see clearly without glasses for the first time since her early childhood and restored not only her vision, but her confidence too.
She explained that she has gone from needing vision correction to see things right in front of her face to barely needing help at all.
"It is wonderful being able to walk around the house and see everything clearly, and also being able to look out of the windows and see everything in the distance just with my eyes and no glasses," she explained.
"Losing your sight really ebbs away at your confidence you start to question what may happen in the future. I"ve got rid of my cataracts and gained great vision at the same time."
Richard Caesar, the Gloucestershire-based consultant eye surgeon who performed the operation on Ms Lang, revealed that most of his cataract patients can use ready-made IOLs.
However, he noted that Ms Lang fell "far outside" the standard IOL power range in terms of both shortsightedness and astigmatism, so an "incredibly special lens" was required.
"She is one of the first patients in this county who has had a Toric IOL implanted for such extreme refractive error and we are delighted with her results," he explained.
"The Rayner IOL is incredibly well made and it is very stable. Once it"s in the eye it doesn"t rotate, which means that it gives you a very predictable result."
Rayner Intraocular Lenses chairman and managing director, Donald Munro, said the ability to design and provide bespoke lenses for patients with intricate needs can help to significantly enhance the lives of patients.
For Ms Lang in particular, her future is now far clearer than it was just a few short months ago.
by Adrian Galbreth