The Future of Ophthalmology

May 20th, 2011
The Future of Ophthalmology

Ensuring good eye sight for life is perhaps one of the most personal of health concerns; particularly since around 50% of the population wear spectacles or need some aid to vision.

But how is ophthalmology developing? There are in fact 5 trends. First is cataract surgery. Until relatively recently surgery involved having a major operation under anaesthetic. But with advances in technology cataracts are now removed by laser surgery.

According to one ophthalmologist, Dr. Packer, who runs a practice in Oregon in the USA: “The laser essentially automates the principle steps of cataract surgery that are traditionally done by hand.”

He added: “It’s going to change the way we do cataract surgery because the technique is so different. There’s no question that we’re moving in this direction.”

Another trend is for many ophthalmologists (particularly in the USA) to offer patients a number of what have been described as premium services. These include corrective laser eye treatment. Having this done enables patients to get rid of their glasses. A similar ‘operation’ is lens implants.

Dr. Packer said: “Initially, in 2005, it was presbyopia-correcting lenses, and then it became toric lenses, which correct astigmatism.”

Commenting on how American ophthalmic surgeons can offer these new techniques Dr. Parker added: “It’s kind of akin to a plastic surgeon who may do reconstructive work that is covered, but also does all these cosmetic, non-covered, out-of-pocket procedures.”

A third trend is age related surgery. An increasing number of older people are electing to have cataracts removed by say LASIK treatment and other treatments. But Dr. Packer has also noticed that even younger patients below 65 are asking for treatment because they perceive it to be safer than leaving till old age creeps up.

Dr. Packer said: “People elect to have surgery earlier because it’s perceived as safer. They think, ‘Why should I put up with difficulty driving at night? My neighbour had it done and had a great outcome.’ I think we’ll see a bit of a downward drift in mean age for cataract surgery.”

The fourth trend is more one of organisation with many more ophthalmic surgeons opting to use technology to help organise their practices. No doubt the same is happening in Britain.

The fifth trend (which currently doesn’t apply to Britain) is stricter regulations. With the onset of medical reforms in the USA ophthalmologists as with other medical practitioners face extra legislative conditions, including more regular inspections of practices; not to mention the necessity to ensure they have proper legal protection in case things go wrong.

Along with the greater use of technology is the greater propensity for accidents, which can result in medical practitioners being sued.

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