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Medicine Technology

Laser Treatment Could Save the Sight of Millions 95

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the i-can-see-clearly-now dept.
BotScout writes "British experts claim that a new laser treatment could save the sight of millions of people. The process is said to stop the onset of age-related macular degeneration, one of the most common forms of blindness, which leaves victims unable to read, drive or live independently. The technique rejuvenates the Bruch's membrane — a thin layer that lies behind the retina. The process takes just ten to 15 minutes and could be done by any ophthalmologist. While it does not cure sight loss, its inventor, Professor John Marshall, says it could prevent a generation from having to put up with declining vision in old age."
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Laser Treatment Could Save the Sight of Millions

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  • Too late! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 06, 2009 @06:34PM (#28600785)

    Now get off my lawn! I can hear you there!

  • Hubert J. Farnsworth will be pleased by this news.

    • by uberjack (1311219)
      I only hope that something can be finalized before I go completely blind. I was diagnosed with MD when I turned 30. I'm 32 now, and my vision has worsened quite noticeably in the last 3 years alone.
      • Do you have the requisite $2 million per eye for this procedure?

        If so, you can get this done now.

        Otherwise, you'll have to wait 25 years along with the rest of the riff-raff to have it done for the low-low price of $10,000/eye.

  • by RobertB-DC (622190) * on Monday July 06, 2009 @06:41PM (#28600871) Homepage Journal

    Over 40 years ago, my grandmother was the first successful retina reattachment patient. She wasn't the first to get the surgery (probably the Scleral Buckle surgery described in the Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org]), but she was the first one for whom it actually worked.

    Now, repair of a detatched retina is routine, laser eye surgery is advertised on TV and radio like something you'd have done at a kiosk in the mall, and formerly incurable degenerative diseases like macular degeneration are now being treated.

    My grandmother is 90 now. If I'm lucky enough to make it to that age (I'm almost halfway there), I wonder if I'll even have my original ocular equipment? I'd love to be able to see me some UV and IR.

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by raddan (519638) *
      Speaking as someone who is about to marry an optometrist: I, too, hope you have a long life, but that your eyesight makes a long, slow decline which requires lots of treatment ;^)

      Really, though, just kidding. I have a small collection of eye problems that are easily manageable because of modern medicine. Macular degeneration is pretty devastating for people, especially those people who are dealing with other diabetes-related problems (that said: kids, put down the sugar drinks-- diabetes is a horrible
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by Macrat (638047)

      My grandmother is 90 now. If I'm lucky enough to make it to that age (I'm almost halfway there),

      Life after 50 is over rated.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Life after 50 is over rated.

        Actually it's pretty darn good. You've got enough money to enjoy it, and you're no longer the complete idiot you were in your twenties. (if you're still in your twenties you'll have to just trust me on this one, but you are an idiot.)

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          and you're no longer the complete idiot you were in your twenties.
          Speaking from the perspective of someone in their fifties, I have found that the experience and knowledge I have gathered over the years has made me a far more complete idiot than I was in my twenties.
          • by mcgrew (92797)

            No, you were alsways an idiot, but now you're smart enough to realize it.

        • Heh. Getting old sucks, but it's better than the alternative.
        • Sorry mate, you're still a complete idiot, it's just your self awareness is laggy.
          • People are born with the delusion that they know what is going on, and it just gets stronger as they get older. By the time the average person reaches their 80s they are insufferably confident and still actually know nothing. It's kinda sad, really, but at the same time I understand why it happens. Without the delusions, getting old would probably be unbearable since not only does everything suck, but you are saddled with memories of times when everything didn't suck. Shame, that.

      • by Plekto (1018050)

        My grandmother is 90 now. If I'm lucky enough to make it to that age (I'm almost halfway there),

        Life after 50 is over rated.

        But it beats the alternative.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by mcgrew (92797)

        No it isn't. I'm 57 and have more fun than I ever did before.

        Of course, I'm not married any more, that has a lot to do with it.

        • No it isn't. I'm 57 and have more fun than I ever did before. Of course, I'm not married any more, that has a lot to do with it.

          Being 26 and recently married, I see your point ;) I kid! I kid!

          • by mcgrew (92797)

            Two pieces of advice:

            1. Don't let your wife see that comment
            2. If your wife asks "is my ass too big" the answer is always NO, even if she has trouble getting her fat ass through the doorway.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      People who get their lens replaced can see into the near UV. Apparently the new material doesn't filter out some frequencies.

      • by Gilmoure (18428)

        If there was a way to see the IR that bounces through bathing suits and light cotton...

      • by mcgrew (92797)

        [citation needed]

        Who modded that misinformation as "informative"? The eye's crystal lens doesn't filter out frequencies, although your glasses do (UV won't pass through glass, but IR does). The limits on your color vision come from the size of the individual cones in the retina.

        As someone with a variable focus bionic lens in my own eye, I'll just politely say that you're completely incorrect. Whoever told you that needs a good bitch slapping.

    • And yet, nobody found a cure for it!

      All they do is fix things that went kaputt. Nobody wants to find out why it happened in the first place.

      Why? because there is not so much money in it. Simple as that.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Hurricane78 (562437)

        By the way: A cure is something that makes it go away and not come back. That is why this fails too.

        And don't say it is because of old age. That is never a cause. There are only two causes:
        1. Genetic ones.
        3. Environmental effects. (Including food, other people doing and saying things, air, etc.)

        Every other "cause" else your doctor tells you, is a lie. :)

        • by kthejoker (931838)

          Umm ... so let's assume it's genetic. Do we have "cures" for genetic problems now that are safe, well-tested, and cheap? Let's give science a break, people are working on cures all the time, but we only discovered DNA 50 years ago, we've got a lot of learning left to do before genetic causes can be "cured".

          • I assume it is not genetic. I assume it is, like pretty much all so-called "age-related" diseases, a problem with the food we eat, and the toxins in everything around us.
            Not the quick ones. The slow ones. That take decades to get to a point where you notice them.
            They are the ones where the association back to the cause is the hardest. And this is why they are mostly ignored.

            Luckily, someone actually did make a study with over 50,000 patients over 50 years of being the boss of a hospital. And he found out, t

      • I wonder if they'll ever find a cure for the particular retardation that makes nerds turn everything into a stupid conspiracy theory.

    • by mcgrew (92797)

      You have your facts wrong. A detached retina can NOT be cured by a laser. If a laser was used, your grandmother's retina was torn, not detached. I know; my retina detached last year after several tears and laser repairs and I underwent a vitrectomy [slashdot.org]

      Repair of a detached retina is NOT routine, although repair of a torn retina is. If a torn retina isn't repaired, it will detach and you will either get needles stuck in your eye and your vitreous fluid replaced with nitrogen, or a rubber band wrapped around your

      • You have your facts wrong. A detached retina can NOT be cured by a laser. If a laser was used, your grandmother's retina was torn, not detached...

        It was the late '60s. If a laser was used, it would have been more like a sci-fi movie than a therapeutic method.

        (The confusion is understandable... I wasn't talking about the current advances being used in her case, but instead reminiscing about our family's contribution to medical advancement. Also, all the comments so far had been stupid, so I figured I shoul

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 06, 2009 @06:49PM (#28600947)
    Dated 2007, this article [blogspot.com] appears to discuss the mechanism by which the treatment works. (Presumably today's press release has something to do with a successful clinical trial?)

    What I don't get -- if the laser isn't actually being used for thermal properties -- is how the light actually "fixes" the problem. If it's just the light that's "stimulating" the cells to "clean up their mess", why not dump 532nm light from an LED? They're just as monochromatic and oughta be bright enough to shine through the relevant tissues.

    Obviously, that doesn't work if a high power density is required for some reason other than localized heating, but I'm failing to see why (since the article goes into repeated detail about how little thermal damage is done to photoreceptors) the laser's required.

    The only thing that makes sense would be that the amount of waste heat/light dumped into the eyeball by a suitably-bright LED would damage cells in the rest of the retina (i.e. the 99% of the retina that has nothing to do with the macula), and that the laser's only used because it's the only thing that can deposit the required power in the region of the macula without dumping gazillions of green photons everywhere else? (that is, staring into a low-power green LED wouldn't do anything, and staring into a high-power one would be just as damaging as staring into the sun.)

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Which advertisement sounds cooler?

      "Using a bright green flashlight, we make your macular degeneration go away in ten minutes."

      or

      "Using a high-tech laser systems designed by a team of professors, we blast your macular degeneration away -- in just minutes!"

      Lasers make anything cooler.

    • by Nefarious Wheel (628136) on Monday July 06, 2009 @07:08PM (#28601181) Journal

      What I don't get -- if the laser isn't actually being used for thermal properties -- is how the light actually "fixes" the problem. If it's just the light that's "stimulating" the cells to "clean up their mess", why not dump 532nm light from an LED? They're just as monochromatic and oughta be bright enough to shine through the relevant tissues.

      Monochrome light isn't the only useful characteristic of a laser. Accuracy is another - the beam doesn't spread out over any appreciable distance because of the coherent nature of the beam.

      That said, it makes a very clean instrument; nothing quite as sterile as something that doesn't touch you at all.

      IANAO but a very happy recovered patient of a good one. Although my sight was restored with ultrasound and acrylic as much as lasers. With lens replacement surgery lasers are sometimes required to burn away the back of the lens capsule. Strangely, I found the whole process rather fun and entertaining, rather than frightening, but I'm a geek (and no, there were no drugs involved).

      Of course that doesn't matter, if there's the prospect of having your sight restored after nearly a year without it, you'd crawl through broken glass if that's what it took.

      Thank you Fred Hollows, wherever you are.

      • by ozbird (127571)

        Thank you Fred Hollows, wherever you are.

        Dead [hollows.org.au], unfortunately.

      • by mcgrew (92797)

        and no, there were no drugs involved

        What do you think those drops that dialated your eyes were, rainwater? Of course drugs were involved! And before those drops they put pain relieving drugs in your eyes because without them, the dialation drugs burn like hell.

        • You're quite right, there were eyedrops involved. What I meant to impart was that there were no drugs that made me giggle.
    • by stevelinton (4044)

      The 3 nanosecond pulses may be a factor. I don't think you can pulse a normal LED that fast. I think they also do need very precise aiming.

  • Great !!! (Score:3, Funny)

    by xednieht (1117791) on Monday July 06, 2009 @07:01PM (#28601107) Homepage
    Now I can go blind again..... if I don't stop doing "that"!
    • by uberjack (1311219)
      That may be the case, but I don't think "hairy palm syndrome" has been cured yet. Better be safe
    • by Maelwryth (982896)

      "Now I can go blind again..... if I don't stop doing "that"!"
       
      I thought the problem was if you kept doing "that".

  • Now all they need to do is train the sharks not to eat the old people during the procedure.
    • by TimSSG (1068536)

      Now all they need to do is train the sharks not to eat the old people during the procedure.

      That must be where the idea of that surgery costs an "arm and a leg" started. Tim S.

  • by bargainsale (1038112) on Monday July 06, 2009 @07:21PM (#28601297)
    This has been disgracefully overhyped by all the news media that I've seen that have picked it up, often in very similar words, suggesting that the ultimate blame lies with the original press release.

    The fact is that the technique hasn't even been *tried* yet on Macular Degeneration, much less been shown to actually work.

    All that's been done is some studies on a quite different disease for which quite effective treatments already exist.
    The history of efforts to treat Macular Degeneration is full of false hopes, and it is desperately cruel to grieving patients and relatives to put out seriously premature press releases like this. I am an eye surgeon specialising in these conditions and I had to deal with some very upset people because of this only today.

    Prof Marshall is a very eminent figure in the development of laser treatments for eye disease, but if he had much to do with the way this has been presented to the media he should do some hard thinking about his responsibilities.

    There's a brief press release about this on the website of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists (British eye surgeons' professional organisation)
    http://www.rcophth.ac.uk/about/press/ [rcophth.ac.uk]
  • Declining vision (Score:4, Informative)

    by scorp1us (235526) on Monday July 06, 2009 @07:22PM (#28601305) Journal

    Don't believe the fluff. Vision declines for several reasons. First, you'll have general focal point problems. Either myopia, hyperopia, or astigmatism (both at the same time - yes two focal points) those can happen at any age. But around 40, your crystalline lens in your eye begins to stiffen. This is presbyopia. The lens cannot bend and this is a lack of "accommodation". Then this lens as a result of UV exposure degrades and you get cataracts. Then you need lens replacement surgery. This is all before we even get to the back of the eye. Floaters in the various humors. Glaucoma (too much humor pressure distorts and damages the optic nerve) , Then, we can start worrying about the retina and things below...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Obviously this is not going to help those with an eye-related illness other than macular degeneration. The conditions you mentioned are treatable with other methods (eyeglasses or lasik for dysopias, medication for glaucoma, etc). This is simply a new way of handling a specific ocular disorder.
    • but not one of them can kill me!

    • by Ricken (797341)

      Don't believe the fluff. Vision declines for several reasons. First, you'll have general focal point problems. Either myopia, hyperopia, or astigmatism (both at the same time - yes two focal points) those can happen at any age. But around 40, your crystalline lens in your eye begins to stiffen. This is presbyopia. The lens cannot bend and this is a lack of "accommodation". Then this lens as a result of UV exposure degrades and you get cataracts. Then you need lens replacement surgery. This is all before we even get to the back of the eye. Floaters in the various humors. Glaucoma (too much humor pressure distorts and damages the optic nerve) , Then, we can start worrying about the retina and things below...

      Phew, at least no slashdotters will be affected by that.

    • Uh, not around age 40. Early 30s, actually. Most people don't need to treat it with glasses until their early 40s, but I can quite clearly notice that I have presbyopia at age 34 - and have seen it for a year or more. It's just that it's only apparent when things get closer than 4 inches from my face.

      I'm a severe myopic - got my first glasses at age 6, first contacts at 8, currently running a -11 diopter - so I'm really, really used to being able to see things UP CLOSE. Furthermore, young myopics have a
      • by scorp1us (235526)

        Well LASIK treatment is out for you, but you can still have PRK. Healing time is a week, and you won't ever have as good vision as a LASIK candidate, but it might improve your vision to be more useful in uncorrected situations. Not to mention making glasses and contacts easier to find/wear.

        Well, at 32, I do notice a slightly longer accommodation time in some circumstances, over just 4 years ago, but my vision is still excellent.

        • Pure myopia, no astigmatism. Contacts have to be special-ordered, but are otherwise easily available. Technically LASIK is not out of the picture, if I have thick enough corneas, but why take a risk on something with no long-term data (my family is long-lived and I can reasonably expect to live into my late 80s) when I have total vision correction with contacts?

          Mainly, though, the problem is that after surgery there's still a good chance that I'd have to wear some sort of corrective lens. I'm accustomed t
    • by mcgrew (92797)

      You are correct, but all those conditions are now not only treatable, but curable. The CrystaLens cures the myopia, presbyopia, astigmatisn, and cataracts (I had one implanted [slashdot.org] in 2006). That eye now also has no floaters, because I had to undergo a vitrectomy [slashdot.org] last year for a detached retina.

      I wore glasses all my life, now I don't need them. I see better than most 20 year olds, both distance and close up, and I'm 57. I'm looking forward to gettin the other eye fixed some day.

      • by scorp1us (235526)

        Ah yes. There are many new advancements in interocular lenses. There are the classic single-focal (which medicare covers), multifocal, toric and so many new ones. They even have some that can accommodate (be focused by your eye).

        Combined with laser treatments surgery (of the lens) including Wavefront(tm) you can have vision better than you probably ever could. Some laser treatments are resulting in 80/20 which is about the same visual acuity as a fox.

        It seems that our tech is not just replacing, but augment

        • by mcgrew (92797)

          I have the CrystaLens in my left eye, it's an accomodating lens and it's as if I have a twenty year old eyeball again, I can focus on any distance effortlessly. My vision was 20/400, now it's 20/16. I'm pretty sure it obsoletes every other IOL except the single focal lens, and when the patent runs out in 2026 (perhaps earlier) there will be no reason whatever to have any other kind.

          It certainly augmented MY vision. You will be assimilated; resistance is futile.

  • Do not look into laser with remaining eye!
  • Where's mcgrew and his 3 eyes? I want to hear his comment.
  • ... if the equipment makers and ophthalmologists price those fifteen minutes out of reach of people on small fixed incomes with Medicare.

    • by mcgrew (92797)

      Medicare covers cataract surgery, and that's a pretty expensive procedure (about $6000 per eyeball). I'm sure when this treatment is proven (see a comment by a retina specialist further up) it will be covered by insurance and Medicare.

  • Anyone interested in learning more about John Marshall's retinal regeneration process can read my article about the technology, written in November 2007. The title of my online Journal entry was: Ellex 2RT Retina Regeneration Therapy: A First Report and the link is: http://irvaronsjournal.blogspot.com/2007/11/ellex-2rt-retina-regeneration-therapy.html [blogspot.com] Irv Arons
  • Now THIS is something that can threaten marriage. There's a natural harmony between declining sight and declining sights.
    • by mcgrew (92797)

      That's what Viagra is for. You try getting it up for a fat old wrinkled bitch without drugs!

  • Do look at laser with remaining eyesight!
  • There are several types of lasers that are used on eyes.

    Some reshape the cornea, to improve visual refraction/vision. (aka LASIK, or PRK)
    Some clear "secondary cataracts", via breaking up "posterior lens capsule, secondary cataracts" (aka Yag laser)
    Some stimulate the retina to react in ways that cause it to respond in a manner that mitigates damage "in progress" - this is most commonly effective in diabetic retinopathy treatment.

    While it is possible, I have never seen any evidence of laser being effective ag

  • I can tell you that any hope is welcome. My Dad was using PDT treatments (which ruined the contrast in his vision) and Avantis injections (which were some help), but the real break through was when Lucentis came of trial and became available. He went from diminished vision and the prospect of not being able to drive to a vastly improved vision spectrum and only limiting his night driving (due to contrast issues). While the injections are costly ($1500 just for the drug - thank god for his insurance cover
  • ...that most UK residents won't get the treatment for years while their sight degenerates as they sit on the waiting list. Unless they get it done in the United States...oh, that's right - they won't be able to once Obama is done with health care.

    • by mcgrew (92797)

      Madicare covers cataract surgery, which ISN'T laser surgery but involves physically removing the eye's focusing lens from behind the iris, and replacing it with a plastic one. It costs three to six times as much as LASIK. If you opt for the more expensive accomodating lens, Medicare still covers it but you have to make up the difference from your own pocket (I got mine done with private insurance, which also didn't cover the extra cost of my bionic lens and I had to pay an extra grand). So I see no reason w

  • My dad had cataract surgery and recovered his ability to read about 15 years ago. If only this new surgery had been available back then, my dear mother (who unfortunately also suffers from advanced Alzheimer's) would not have lost her ability to read, do crossword puzzles, or even look at family photos -- things she enjoyed immensely.

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