Advanced eye implants saving vision

Advanced eye implants saving vision

Faced with the possibility of total blindness because of a rare eye condition and past medical issues, James Howley, an administrator at Governors State University in University Park, Ill., turned to a pair of advanced surgical solutions to battle his retinal condition.

Howley suffered from a rare condition, birdshot chorioretinophathy, or “birdshot”, a very serious type of progressive eye inflammation affecting about 200,000 Americans.  Birdshot, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), gets its name from the small destructive spots it can leave on a patient’s retina, part of the inner eye. 

Christopher T. Kardasis, MD, on the staff of Advocate South Suburban Hospital, Hazel Crest, Ill., was able to diagnose Howley’s condition and recommend a drug-carrying intraocular implant for Howley’s eyes. The implant delivers anti-inflammatory medication that can control the condition. Intraocular implants are a class of medical devices that can be safely surgically placed into the fluid in a patient’s eyeball, Dr. Kardasis explained.

“Physicians always are searching for ways to treat patients more effectively with less possible side effects,” said Dr. Kardasis.  “Intraocular implants devices are safe and effective ways to apply proven therapy to the affected area over a period of years.”

The plastic intraocular implants that Howley received allowed the steroids contained in them to control swelling in the eye for a long period of time. These implants replaced the need for the more traditional steroid therapy, which was not an option for Howley because of an earlier bout with cancer.

Prolonged, non-targeted steroid treatment, says the AAO, can lead to cancer relapse, as well as hypertension (high blood pressure) and osteoporosis (weakening of the bones).  Howley’s eyes benefitted greatly from the implants, and experienced none of the serious side effects.

A year later, Howley’s sight again was threatened; this time from aggressive secondary glaucoma, a predictable and anticipated side effect of the earlier implant. Dr. Kardasis says that uncontrolled glaucoma can lead to build up of pressure in the fluid in the eye, and can cause blurred vision, photopsia (flashing lights in eyes), loss of color vision, night blindness or complete blindness.

To relieve the pressure inside of Howley’s eyes, Dr. Kardasis surgically placed another set of implants into his eyes.  Smaller than a grain of rice, these specialized implants enable correct drainage of the eye fluid, heading off the devastating effects of glaucoma.

“Advances in ophthalmology, such as the use of surgical implants have made a dramatic impact on patients’ eyesight and lives,” says Dr. Kardasis. “People struggling with complex vision problems need to know that they can work with their physicians to explore the expanding list of options available to help them.”

Howley, who relies on his ability to read current research and other materials in his academic position, was significantly visually challenged, especially at night, before his surgery.  After receiving the intraocular implants, Howley has 20/20, or normal, vision and is reading and driving without trouble.

“My eyes and the ability to read are everything to me,” said Howley.  “The implants have given me back the full ability to pursue my career and keep the independence that sight gives us.”

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About the Author

Nate Llewellyn
Nate Llewellyn

Nate Llewellyn, health enews contributor, is a manager of public affairs at Advocate Medical Group. Nate began his career as a journalist and builds daily on his nearly 20 years of writing experience. He spends most of his free time following his wife to their two sons’ various activities.