Dozens of patients left with ‘blind patches’ are suing a lens manufacturer after routine operation worsened their eyesight
- As many as 800 people are thought to have vision problems from the lenses
- The lenses, made by Oculentis, were used five to seven years ago for cataracts
- But calcium deposits have built up in people’s eyes and made their sight worse
Denise Di Battista, a painter, said she has become ‘almost blind’ in one eye because of a calcium build-up in her cataract lens
Dozens of people are suing a lens manufacturer after their cataract operations made their eyesight worse.
As many as 800 patients are thought to have been affected by a problem with Oculentis lenses which have become cloudy years after being implanted.
The company has already recalled the lenses which caused the issue and are believed to have been on the market five to seven years ago.
One woman involved in the lawsuit, Denise Di Battista, said she was ‘very, very shocked’ to find out she would need another cataract operation to fix the issue.
There are believed to be hundreds of people suffering from opacification of their lenses – meaning patches of the eye’s lens become hard to see through.
The problem is affecting people whose natural lenses were replaced in cataract surgery, and has taken between five and seven years to surface, the BBC reports.
Cloudiness in the new lenses is caused by calcium deposits which build up over years until they become so large they obstruct people’s vision.
Ms Di Battista, a painter, said she now has blind patches in one of her eyes, and struggles to see colours following an operation in 2010.
She told the BBC: ‘If I was looking through my right eye, I would think I was almost blind.
‘It affects my painting and that depresses me terribly.’
A lawyer taking action against Oculentis on Ms Di Battista’s behalf said dozens more people are seeking similar compensation because of the problematic batch.
The company has already paid for surgeons to replace the lenses in patients who have been affected by the issue, which is the only way to repair the damage.
Lawyer Peter Todd said: ‘Mrs Di Battista has been left devastated by the deterioration in her sight since she had the Oculentis lens implanted.
‘She is one of dozens of people who we are representing in upcoming legal action.
‘All claim to have suffered similar experiences after having the lens implanted. We will be launching legal proceedings shortly.’
Hundreds of people are believed to be suffering from vision problems because they had cataract operations in which they were given lenses which later produced calcium build-up
Cataract operations are the most common surgery done in the UK – with around 400,000 of them performed in the UK each year.
But having the lenses replaced for a second time carries a higher risk of complications, making surgeons and patients more reluctant to repeat the op.
And people will be frustrated to have to return to the operating room after having what they thought was a one-off procedure, one expert said.
Eye surgeon Sheraz Daya told the BBC: ‘A percentage of lenses have deposits of calcium on the surface that only become evident five to seven years later, when they accumulate enough to obscure their vision.
‘It is understandably devastating for patients who thought they were done and dusted for life and didn’t anticipate an issue with the lens.’
The rate of people having problems with the lenses is ‘extremely low’, Oculentis said, and around half of people affected have already had replacement surgery.
A spokesperson said: ‘We regret if any patients have experienced complications following the implant of one of our lenses.
‘Opacification, or clouding of the lens, is a known risk of lens eye surgery and can be caused by a number of factors interacting, which are not necessarily attributable to the lens itself.
‘The incidence rate is extremely low. It can be effectively remedied through lens exchange surgery, which is a safe and well-established procedure.
‘Anyone experiencing any vision impairment should consult their surgeon or clinic who will be able to diagnose the cause and recommend an appropriate course of action, otherwise there is no need for any concern.’
WHAT ARE CATARACTS?
Cataracts occur when the lens – a small transparent disc inside the eye that helps to focus light – becomes cloudy.
The patches gradually become bigger over time, according to the NHS, and can lead to blurry vision and, in some cases, blindness.
Cataracts affect around half of over-65 in the UK. Some 24 million adults aged over 40 in the US suffer, according to figures.
The Royal College of Ophthalmologists last year warned that due to a rapidly ageing population, the number of required cataract operations is expected to jump by 50 per cent over the next 20 years.
Yet in his new book ‘The Complete Patient’s Guide to Cataract Surgery’, leading eye surgeon David Allamby claimed there simply will not be enough specialists to cope with the soaring demand.
He said around 1,300 NHS surgeons perform 389,000 operations a year. However, by 2035 more than 2,000 medics will be needed to do around 583,500 procedures annually.
People are more at risk if they have: diabetes, suffered an eye injury, take certain medications or have other eye conditions.
Symptoms normally develop very slowly and include being more sensitive to light and thinking everything looks washed out.
Cataracts can be removed by surgery and replaced with an artificial lens. No other treatment is available.
The Mail has long campaigned against the current unfair system for surgery in the UK, which were a postcode lottery until the health watchdog issued guidelines last August to tackle problem, which had led to many sufferers being denied the straightforward 30-minute operations.