Vision of the Future

It’s unsettling to consider the possibility of a disease compromising your vision. But with today’s treatments, the threat isn’t as great as it once was. 

Presbyopia

When afflicted with presbyopia, the eye’s lens loses its elasticity, making nearby objects appear fuzzy.

Switchable bifocals, currently in development, will someday let you switch from near to farsighted vision at the touch of a button. If you wear reading glasses or traditional “split” bifocals, which require looking down to read and up for distance, you may want to ask your doctor about these.

We all develop presbyopia starting in our 40s, so this should be a popular fix. In time, researchers hope to substitute the button with an infrared sensor. It will detect distance and focus the lenses accordingly.

The bifocals are a prototype, but researchers hope they’ll be available in 3 to 5 years. Their cost has yet to be determined.

Myopia

Also known as nearsightedness, to those afflicted with it, objects in the distance appear blurry.

Myopia is treatable with a Visian Implantable Collamer Lens ( ICL). It’s a pliable lens that’s injected by an ophthalmologist into the eye, where it “unfolds” to correct nearsightedness. Ask your doctor about it if you are 21 to 45 years old, suffer moderate to severe nearsightedness and aren’t a candidate for or don’t want LASIK surgery.

More than 30 million people over age 40 suffer from myopia. In a study, Ninety-five percent of people who got the lens achieved 20/40 or better vision (the standard for a driver’s license) after three years. Risks of surgery include potential increase in eye pressure, damage to the natural lens and infection. The ICL can be removed if necessary. Implants for a stigmatism and farsightedness are on the horizon.

Cataracts

With cataracts, the eye’s lens clouds as you age, making it harder to see.

Synchrony, NuLens and TetraFlex, true accommodative intraocular lenses (IOLs). are part of a new generation of artificial implants that mimic the natural lens, seamlessly focusing at any distance. Ask your doctor about them if you have cataracts and presbyopia (most people who have cataracts also have presbyopia).

Over 20 million North Americans above age 40 suffer from cataracts. Doctors hope the lenses will replace standard monofocal IOLs, which, although used widely, still have shortcomings, including the inability to offer good near and distance vision. Further studies are needed before we’ll benefit from the exceptional vision that the new IOLs promise to provide.

Blindness

Blindness denotes severe impairment or total loss of vision.
Bionic eyes are a new treatment for blindness. The retinal prostheses fit into or over the eye and stimulate the retina to restore sight. Ask your doctor about them if you are blind from a retinal disease such as age-related macular degeneration or retinitis pigmentosa. Experts estimate they could be available in 3 to 5 years.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma entails damage to the optic nerve that causes progressive loss of the field of vision.

It’s now treated with anecortave acetate, a drug that’s injected around the wall of the eye. It appears to decrease production of myocilin, a protein that clogs the pore system inside the eye where fluid drains.
Ask your doctor about it if you have open-angle glaucoma, the most common form .

At least 3 million North Americans have glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness. One injection of the drug can last up to 6 months. Preliminary studies suggest it may work better than prostaglandin-based eye drops that are currently used. There are no significant side effects, and it may be available in 3 to 5 years.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration occurs when the macula, which controls central vision, breaks down.

It can be treated with Lucentis, a targeted therapy that’s injected into the back of the eye to stop central vision loss. Most patients will need 5 to 7 shots, on average, per year. If you have wet AMD, in which abnormal blood vessels leak blood and fluid into the eye, causing rapid vision loss, ask about it. Lucentis stops or slows the leakage and bleeding.

About 1.75 million people have advanced AMD. In trials, lucentis improved vision for many and stopped vision loss in 95 percent of patients. Infection or retinal detachment occurred in less than 1 percent of patients. There may be some irritation at the injection site.

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