Researchers examined the descendants and their Polynesian wives who settled on Pitcairn Island after the 1789 mutiny, then moving to Norfolk Island).
Run by David Mackey from the University of Western Australia, the study found that “…the prevalence of myopia (near-sightedness) on Norfolk Island is lower than on mainland Australia…But there was a two-fold higher prevalence of myopia in people without Pitcairn ancestry.”
“We found the rate of Pitcairn group myopia is approximately one-half that of the Australian population and as a result would be ranked among one of the lowest rates in the world.”
He believes that the differences conclude that genetic factors play a major role in determining our susceptibility to short-sightedness. He also adds that spending too little time outdoors also raises a person’s risk of becoming short sighted.
For those who aren’t lucky enough to be the descendants of sailors, laser eye surgery may be the best option available for the moment.
You can probably understand why athletes all around the world are turning to laser eye surgery. Cumbersome glasses are not ideal, particularly in contact sports and contact lens wear does not suit everyone.
Due to the extraordinarily high success rates of laser eye surgery, a number of famous professional athletes have been on the record as turning to laser eye surgery. These include Tiger Woods (PGA), Tom Kite (PGA), LeBron James (NBA), Patrick Ewing (NBA).
No doubt a number of athletes competing in the 2012 London Olympic Games have had laser eye surgery performed, including New Zealand slalom kayaker Luuka Jones. Swimmers, cyclists, runners, gymnasts –would all benefit from having the procedure.
Since laser eye surgery can eliminate the need for glasses and contact lenses, it’s no surprise that LASIK is becoming a popular choice for sportspeople.
These athletes are among the 30 million people who have undergone laser eye surgery for its (legal) ‘performance enhancing’ of benefits.
Millions of Australians tuning into the television series ‘The Voice’ were not only struck by the high quality of talent, but also by the adversity that many of the finalists had overcome to be there. During her audition, young Adelaide singer Rachael Leahcar stunned the judges when she told them that she didn’t know if any had turned around, because she is legally blind.
Rachael suffers from Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), an eye disease that causes a person gradually to lose sight, beginning with the peripheral vision. RP is, in fact, a collective name for a range of diseases that damage the retina.
The retina, located at the back of the eye, houses the light sensitive photoreceptors called rods and cones. If these are damaged, sight begins to diminish. The first symptom of RP is normally poor night vision, followed by the loss of peripheral vision.
Rachael is one of approximately 3000 Australians to suffer from this mostly genetic disorder. There may be no family history of RP, however, in most cases it can be caused by just one of the possible 100 defective genes.
The progression varies from person to person. In Rachael’s case, she has around 10% of vision.
At this stage, there is no treatment. However, researchers are constantly working to develop possible treatments to slow the progress of RP, or even one day, find a cure.
As Rachael Leahcar herself says, RP does not need to slow anyone down. Whilst obviously adjustments need to be made, there is no compelling reason why someone who suffers from Retinitis Pigmentosa shouldn’t achieve their goals. And so she did.
Cataract patients with mild Alzheimer’s may reap benefits stretching way further than just restored vision after cataract surgery, a French study has recently found. Researchers at Tenon Hospital in Paris, found that Alzheimer’s patients who had undergone cataract surgery reported an improvement in cognitive ability, mood, sleep patterns and other behaviours.
The study was the very first of its kind. 38 patients with an average age of 85, participated in Dr Girard’s study. They were they diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or just over 85 – if they were just over 85, they probably all had some form of dementia, although not necessarily Alzheimer’s – think we need to be clear what exactly the group had. All of them had a cataract in a least one eye, and each participant was treated using standard cataract surgery and the i implantation of an IOL (an artificial intraocular lens),
The next phase of the research involved a neuropsychologist examining changes in each patient’s brain. What they found was that cognitive status (the ability to coherently understand and respond to one’s surroundings) had improved in 1 out of 4 patients. Depression had also been found to be relieved in many of them, and there was also a noticeable improvement in their sleep patterns. Previous studies have shown that the removal of cataracts helps to restore levels of the sleep-regulating hormone called melatonin.
While the benefits of cataract surgery are widely known, this study proves the highly empirical, yet unpredictable nature of medical science. These ground breaking results have opened up a significant gateway to help improve the quality of life for Alzheimer’s patients and their families.
Presbyopia is an unavoidable condition and we have to accept that it is a part of the ageing process. It can make it extremely difficult to focus in and out on small objects – such as the fine print in books. The actor, Anthony Daniels, better known as C-3PO from the legendary Star Wars flicks – shared his ongoing struggle with presbyopia and how he managed to overcome its effects.
Anthony’s outfit was made of metal that was moulded to fit his body, leaving no room for his spectacles. This meant that he had to constantly tell his crew members to stand further away as he had great difficulty in reading his cue cards. “I felt daft”, he exclaimed.
In another instance, Anthony was at a live stage event in London, narrating the Star Wars story alongside music from the film. He described that during the two hour show, he had to dart off-stage to put on his glasses and re-read the script at every break, which smudged his make-up. He even added that reading glasses began to make him feel self-conscious and as a result – he rarely wore his specs out on social occasions.
As remembering lines became increasingly difficult with age, he desperately needed an alternative. He looked for another option, and his ophthalmologist recommended a form of laser surgery called Laser Blended Vision. The procedure utilizes a laser to open up a flap across the front of the eye, which is then used to adjust the shape of the cornea. Patients achieve 20/20 vision in 98% of cases.
After the operation, Anthony stated that “the difference in my eyesight is nothing short of miraculous. I wish I’d had this done years earlier”. He described the experience to be quick, painless, and with the added bonus of seeing “wonderful spirograph patterns”.
In hindsight, reading glasses were not the answer for Anthony. They were cumbersome, and also made him overly self-conscious. As he discovered, it’s important to know that you have options when looking to treat presbyopia – reading glasses aren’t the be all and end all to solving your vision problems. Book in an appointment with your ophthalmologist today to receive professional advice for treating presbyopia.
PGA Pro Tiger Woods, football star Troy Aikman, British racing driver Danny Watts, baseball pro Wade Boggs, Scottish snooker player, Stephen Macquire, NBA pro Dwyane Wade, Norwegian rally driver Mads Ostberg…these are just a few of the famous sports professionals who’ve chosen to have laser eye surgery.
Recently, a number of the US Olympic team competitors have joined the elite laser eye surgery club too, including a speed skater, bob sledder, cyclist, hockey player and a luge specialist.
No doubt all of them would experience a real difference after the surgery, but the words of Danny Watts, a regular driver in the Le Mans 24 hour race and many other endurance events provides a real insight into his own experience. “When I was racing ( before surgery), I squinted a lot which gave me headaches over a period of time…now, the squinting is no longer, I can concentrate for longer and, above all, my lap times are a lot faster and I’m a lot safer”, he claimed.
“When I was back in the car (after treatment), I drove out onto the circuit and suddenly I could see all the sponsors boards, the marshals all waving their flags…it’s made a phenomenal difference to my eye sight,” said Danny.
While quality of vision is obviously absolutely critical for top sports stars, for many of them, the ability to avoid wearing glasses or contacts, is equally important. Whether you’re serious about sport, an amateur, or just enjoy an active lifestyle, the many advanced laser options now available are becoming an attractive alternative for people who are demanding high performance vision to enhance their abilities.
If this sounds like a good option for you, it’s important to recognise that not everyone is suitable for laser vision correction. And, if you are a suitable candidate, it’s very important to allow the recommended time to fully recover after treatment before you start playing sport again. While your eyesight might be transformed almost immediately, it naturally takes time before you can enjoy the rough and tumble of really aggressive sports like martial arts, soccer, or rugby. So, make sure you ask your surgeon the allowable time before you can push 100% again.
It wasn’t up until the 1960s, when scientists developed a synthetic lens made of Perspex called the IOL (intraocular lens). The discovery was stumbled upon merely by chance, and is quite a fascinating story. Sir Harold Ridley, a British doctor, was on a mission to find a suitable material for a replacement lens, after being asked by one of his students as to why surgeons never replaced the extracted lens during cataract surgery. After trialling different materials, he found that all of them were being heavily rejected by the human body’s natural defence mechanisms.
He then began to pay attention to soldiers with eye injuries from shattered vehicle windshields. What he found was that the soldier’s eyes were not rejecting the shattered perspex, hence making the material the perfect candidate for the manufacture of the very first IOL.
This became a medical milestone in the treatment of cataracts and is still one of the most common ways to have cataract surgery performed. With the help of the IOL, doctors were not only able to extract the cataract, but they now had the ability to completely replace the clouded-up layer with the plastic lens. This rendered those awful, thick-rimmed glasses obsolete, and the need for stitches was a thing of the past. In fact, since the advent of the IOL, cataract surgery has been reduced to a simple procedure that takes a professional ophthalmologist under 30 minutes to complete.
Ultrasound and Lasers
More recent technological advancements brought about the development of laser technology (femtosecond lasers, LASIK), and this has provided doctors with even more precision and accuracy in the extraction of cataracts.
Charles Kelman was directly responsible for pioneering a small-incision, cataract operation called phacoemulsification. It works on the same premise as IOL, however the cataract is broken into tiny pieces using ultrasonic waves. This allows for a much smaller incision – reducing healing times and also patient discomfort. In the past, standard cataract surgery patients have had to spend around 10 days in the hospital, with a recovery period of up to several months.
Kelman’s discovery was an interesting one, as it was inspired by a trip to the dentist. As he was in his dentist chair having his teeth cleaned, he was intrigued by an instrument that his dentist was using. Kelman noticed a layer of mist emanating from what looked like a drill, except the tip of the instrument did not move. When applied to his teeth, it vibrated and made a high-pitched noise. Fascinated by it, he asked the doctor about the instrument – to which the doctor explained that it was an ultrasonic probe. Kelman knew immediately that this technology had the potential to revolutionize cataract surgery.
After years of extensive research, conducting phacoemulsification on cat eyes, the first patient was treated with it in 1967. Conventional doctors were astounded by the fact that Kelman was discharging his patients on the same day as the surgery and that they were fit to go to work the next day. Today, phacoemulsification is the most common and one of the safest options in ophthalmic surgery.
Cataract surgery has come a long way since its inception in India. In place of needles, butter and breast milk – today’s doctors are now equipped with intraocular lenses and advanced laser technology. Most would also be happy to know that the days of administering cocaine and blows to patients heads are long-gone. Due to the marvelous technology out there, we have seen the realm of ophthalmic surgery revolutionized – and is now as safe, quick and painless as it ever was. Providing the eye is healthy, an impressive 99% of cataract surgery patients will have a positive result with today’s professional doctors.
It’s amazing how much as a society we take science and technology for granted. Given the state of medicine in the past, we are infinitely blessed to be living in an age which can grant us painless and guaranteed results. This two-part article will take you through a history of cataract surgery, from its shaky beginnings to the remarkably safe procedure that it is today.
The history of cataract surgery can be traced all the way back to 5th century BC in India, where they pioneered the procedure called ‘couching’.
The cataract would be dislodged into the back of the eye using a sharp object, such as a knife or needle – and was an excruciatingly painful process with poor results. Medicinal journals suggest that Indian doctors applied clarified butter and even breast milk to the patient’s eyes to speed up the recovery process.
The earliest recorded mention of cataract treatment in Western medicine was found in 29AD in Ancient Rome. They were leading the way in advancements in eye care at the time, with remedies for not only cataracts, but also short-sightedness and conjunctivitis.
The Roman ophthalmic doctors would use a range of variously sized needles, which would be carefully inserted into the eye to break up the cataract into smaller particles. The sharp end of the needle would assist in the surgical process, whilst the blunt end would be used to cauterise the wound. Peculiarly, this was accompanied by administering blows to the patient’s head to assist the extraction process.
18th century France marked the beginning of modern cataract surgery. The Industrial Revolution brought radical developments in medicinal technology. Scientists were discovering vaccines for all sorts of deadly diseases from cholera to the plague, and various anaesthetics became available (nitrous oxide, cocaine).
The invention of hypodermic needles allowed doctors to extract and properly remove the cloudy cataract from the eye, and this formed the basis for many of the same procedures that doctors still use today. Unfortunately, the procedure still had its flaws. As the entire lens of the eye would be dislodged during the surgery, the eye would lose its ability to focus. As a result, the patient would have to wear thick and cumbersome ‘coke-bottle’ glasses.
Without a shadow of a doubt, technology has vastly improved medicine and it is reassuring to know that it can only get better from here. In fact, the technology described here is still in its infancy compared to the exciting developments of the last twenty years . The next part of this article will highlight some of the more sophisticated technologies that have been developed, including the invention of highly-advanced synthetic lenses and laser technologies.
Although LASIK (Laser in Situ Keratomileusis) remains the technique of choice for the majority of refractive surgeons, PRK (Photorefractive Keratectomy) still plays an effective role in most laser practices, especially in patients with thin or borderline corneal thickness levels. Postoperative discomfort and extended healing times have previously been hallmarks of the surgery and are seen as limitations to the procedure. Revision of surgical technique in combination with improvements in technology has improved both issues. We describe these changes and discuss where PRK is today in 2012.
PRK requires the removal of the outer layer (epithelium) prior to proceeding with the laser ablation. The preparation of the cornea has direct consequences for the patient and the postoperative result. Optimally the epithelial surface is removed completely in a smooth, consistent manner. Originally a surgical blade or brush was used to remove the outer surface. This prepared the eye adequately for laser ablation however the corneal bed was often irregular which could lead to delays in the return of the outer layer (re-epithelialization). The result may be an extended healing process which effectively prolongs the visual recovery. The relatively harsh nature of the removal has also been shown to increase the inflammatory response of the cornea increasing the potential discomfort of the patient in the immediate postoperative period.
Recent technology has allowed the surgeon to provide for a significantly more consistent, gentle preparation of the outer surface. These advances utilize the laser to remove precise, controlled areas of the epithelium leaving the corneal bed polished and perfectly prepared for the refractive laser ablation. This initial laser process is called PTK or Phototherapeutic Keratectomy. The improved corneal bed provides a considerably better platform for our patients allowing for potentially faster re-epithelialization in addition to less inflammation than previously. Patients are likely to see better earlier and with less overall discomfort. The precise nature of the technique is also likely to have a positive impact on the patients’ ultimate quality of vision.
Understandably this is the preparation of choice Dr Hughes chooses for all his PRK patients in 2012.
Therefore, it’s worth considering what you eat, although it’s important to check with your doctor first to find out if the following suggestions are suitable for you, especially if you are suffering any medical conditions.
For your eye health and a host of other very good reasons, it’s important not to smoke. Sorry smokers, but cigarettes can harm your eyesight as well as your lungs.
Most important of all, don’t put off that eye check. There’s no substitute for routine eye examination which can detect the first signs of macular degeneration and other eye diseases.