Leamington Spa clinic pioneers innovative Raindrop corneal inlay in Britain

PUBLISHED: 11:41 10 October 2014 | UPDATED: 16:51 14 October 2014

The Raindrop inlay treats presbyopia, the condition that causes the eye to lose the ability to change focus from distant to near objects / Photo: Michal Vitek

The Raindrop inlay treats presbyopia, the condition that causes the eye to lose the ability to change focus from distant to near objects / Photo: Michal Vitek

Archant

A Leamington Spa clinic has become the first in Britain to offer an innovative corneal operation designed to allow older people to do without reading glasses, and it’s been overwhelmed with applications from would-be patients.

Consultant Opthalmologist Mark Wevill (in scrubs) with Greg PawseyConsultant Opthalmologist Mark Wevill (in scrubs) with Greg Pawsey

Opthalmic surgeon Mark Wevill has so far performed six operations at Space Healthcare Clinic to implant a revolutionary corneal lens known as Raindrop in a procedure that takes just 10 minutes. It’s been such a success that almost 300 people have applied from as far afield as Hong Kong to have the tiny lens fitted, and surgeons have come from all over Europe to study the technique.

“We’re delighted at the huge response we’ve had,” said Space director Rob Morgan; “Raindrop’s been very well received in America where it was developed and we always thought it’d be big success over here – but over the past couple of weeks, the phone hasn’t stopped ringing and we’ve already had over 100 consultations with people to see if their eyesight would benefit from the procedure.”

Salesman Greg Pawsey, 52, from Rugby, was one of the first British patients to receive the Raindrop inlay to treat presbyopia, the condition that causes the eye to lose the ability to change focus from distant to near objects. This is a natural part of ageing and one reason why so many of us begin to need reading glasses in our 40s. The tiny inlay, a lens the size of a pinhead, is called Raindrop because it is the shape of a droplet and made of a substance called hydrogel which is also used in contact lenses. Hydrogel is 80% water which makes it more compatible with the eye than other corneal implants. The lens is placed in the patient’s non-dominant eye using a painless laser procedure which takes around 10 minutes. Anaesthetic droplets are inserted so the patient remains conscious throughout as the inlay is placed inside a flap in the cornea, the clear part at the front of the eye. It corrects near and medium vision by adjusting the curvature of the cornea, causing its central section to become slightly steeper. This helps to overcome presbyopia and many patients like Greg can throw away their reading glasses afterwards.

“My eyesight started drifting around 7 years ago,” explained Greg, the brother of Rugby MP Mark Pawsey. “I work for Burton McCall, and I drive hundreds of miles a week, distributing high end Swiss watches including Victorinox, Mondaine and Luminox and I was finding it harder and harder to read Excel spreadsheets and the small print on catalogues. Although I had glasses, I was forever losing them which drove me mad though when I heard about the Raindrop implant I was pretty sceptical I’m also quite squeamish and I really hated the idea of anything near my eye but I plucked up courage and thought I’d give it a go.

Greg Pawsey with Optometrist Lesley MasonGreg Pawsey with Optometrist Lesley Mason

“I had the implant put in one Friday early in June [2014] and had to use drops each day beforehand to make sure the eye was really clean. The procedure took just 10 minutes and it was far less intrusive than I’d imagined – not at all painful or uncomfortable as they used anaesthetic drops to numb the eye. I was out within an hour and although I couldn’t see much out of that eye for the rest of the day, within two weeks I was reading the newspaper easily.”

The procedure costs £2495 and is not currently available on the NHS.

“Raindrop can’t stop eyes from ageing” explained surgeon Mark Wevill, “but it can help correct the natural deterioration in eyesight caused by the ageing process. It appears to be the perfect long-term solution for people whose eyes are simply getting tired with age and who need reading glasses to read a book or a computer screen.”

“Raindrop is really safe and simple,” added Rob Morgan of Space. “It’s less invasive than other laser eye surgery procedures and it’s reversible. As it’s a new technology it’s impossible to say exactly how long it will last, but in principle the inlay may remain in position for many years and only need to be removed if other eye conditions develop later in life. Most people can see objects up close almost immediately after the procedure and their near sight continues to improve over the following weeks and months.”

For Greg Pawsey, one benefit was the lack of disruption to his busy life. He said: “For me it’s been really good. Before, I was straining to read or having to fumble for my glasses to read restaurant menus or identify watch specifications. I could see a bit better within a day or two but it took me almost two weeks to get properly used to it. I had some drops afterwards and went for an aftercare check but everything had worked perfectly. Best of all, I haven’t needed glasses since and it’s really transformed my life.”

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For more about Space Healthcare, visit: www.space-healthcare.com

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