New technology helps those with cataracts in Nevada County
Special to The Union
A breakthrough in cataract surgery that has been offered in Europe for years is now available locally.
“The PanOptix lens delivers the best combination of near, intermediate, and distance vision in a variety of lighting conditions,” said Sierra Ambulatory Surgery Center surgeon Dr. John Hagele. “The lens distributes light energy in a way that improves near or what we call ‘reading’ vision. The lens was approved in Europe a few years ago, and we’ve been monitoring its progress. We have been hearing many success stories from European eye surgeons.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the PanOptix lens in August, and Sierra Ambulatory Surgery Center began offering the lenses to cataract surgery patients in October. The eye surgery center, the surgical unit associated with Sierra View Medical Eye (http://www.SVME2020.com), is the only eye surgery center in western Nevada County offering the new lenses.
The specialty lenses cost $2,000 each, which does not include associated surgery costs. The lenses are not yet covered by most insurance plans.
More than 20 million people in the US age 40 and over have cataracts, and four million cataract surgeries are performed each year. A cataract is a cloudy area in the natural lens of the eye that adversely affects vision as an eye’s lens ages, becomes hard, and allows less light to pass through.
Cataracts are treated by removing the eye’s cloudy natural lens and surgically replacing it. The creator of the PanOptix lens, a 70-year-old company called Alcon, claims more than 99% of patients in the PanOptix FDA clinical study said they would choose the same lens again.
Visual side effects of multi-focal lens-replacement surgery include halos or rings around lights, glare, and starbursts, especially at night. The new PanOptix reduces those side effects while increasing image quality and resolution, according to Alcon.
“It’s a slick idea,” said Hagele. “Two of the four foci of the lens are in the far distance, then it has an intermediate range, and specific closer vision. This lens has the ability to perform at every functional distance.”
Hagele said he keeps abreast of the latest technological advances in eye care and vision-related surgeries by reading peer-reviewed journals, attending conferences, and conferring with other experts.
“New technology is something ophthalmologists love to pursue because this is a specialty with constant significant advancements,” Hagele said. “Every year there are new cutting-edge advances in surgery techniques, lenses and equipment. It’s an amazing specialty and an exciting field.”
Ophthalmologist Dr. Cheri Leng — one of Hagele’s co-workers, in addition to Keith Mercer and Matthew Zealear — said the PanOptix lens fills the close reading vision gap that other lenses can’t fill.
“Other lenses are good for distance and intermediate vision, but lack the near reading distance,” Leng said. “My patients say they discover they don’t need glasses for anything. They can read, drive, work at their computer or use their phone up close. Patients love this new lens, and I’m enjoying having the option for patients.”
Ann Edwards chose a PanOptix lens for recent cataract surgery on her right eye.
“I had it done at six in the morning, and that evening my husband turned on the light in the kitchen and I said, ‘Everything is so white and clear!’” Edwards said. “I closed that eye, and through only my left eye everything looked creamy again. I couldn’t believe it was that good the first day. I’ve also been able to read without glasses. Everything used to be blurry in that eye and now I can see to read things. It’s so much easier.”
Edwards said she is so pleased with the results that she has chosen a PanOptix lens for the surgery on her left eye in a few weeks.
“It is a very promising lens,” said Leng.
Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. She can be reached at LorraineJewettWrites@gmail.com.
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