New option for clearer vision for those with astigmatism

Innovations in eye surgery, like Lasik, have given hundreds of thousands of people better vision. But so many are still left out, because they have an eye condition like astigmatism, that can't be corrected that way.

But now, there's a recently FDA-approved procedure that may give those people an option and clearer vision for the first time in their life.

Dr. Paul Dougherty is an ophthalmologist and one of the first to do clinical trials with this newly approved lens.

His patient, 24-year-old Paola Vega is a perfect candidate for the implantable lens. Vega describes how having blurry vision makes her feel vulnerable. "I feel like a sitting duck. I'm a sitting duck," she said.

Like a third of Americans, Vega suffers from astigmatism.

"Astigmatism is when the eye is more curved in one direction and flatter in the other. Much like an American football cut in half. So, the vision is blurry for both distance and near," Dougherty explained.

Now this young mother will undergo the newly approved FDA procedure, to get the Toric ICL.

Vega got a little emotional thinking about the big change to her vision she'll have after the procedure. "I think being able to wake up and see things clearly would be amazing," she said.

Dougherty explains that the flexible intricate lens is made of a special material that contains a small amount of collagen. It's folded, so it can fit through a tiny incision.

"The lens will unfold and I'll place it under the colored part of the eye," Dougherty said.

After three months, people with extreme astigmatism may need to get a Lasik procedure to fine-tune the results, and like any surgery, risks include infection and inflammation.

"Statistically this is safer than wearing contact lenses. You have a higher risk of losing your vision or losing your eye from a contact lens than you do from vision correction surgery," Dougherty said.

The Visian Toric ICL is recommended for people with astigmatism under the age of 50. For patients who are older, Dougherty says there's another procedure.

"We do what's called a 'lens exchange' which is a very similar procedure except we remove the natural lens which is worthless after age 50," he said.

The cost can range from 3,000 to 5,000 dollars, depending on a person's degree of nearsightedness and astigmatism. Another variable: whether or not you've had previous eye surgeries.

Right after surgery Vega happily read the hands of a clock, something Dougherty said would have been impossible before the surgery.
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