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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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  • 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.

  • 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.)

  • 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.

Never buy from a rich salesman. -- Goldenstern

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