Crystalens and Double Z Syndrome: When a Writer’s Eyes Go Bad

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By Mary Duncan

“Double Z Syndrome” sounds like the title of a thriller. But it’s not. It’s what happened to my eyes after what was supposed to be routine cataract surgery.

My doctor in La Jolla, California, recommended Crystalens by Bausch & Lomb, as being the latest lens for replacing cataracts with an added bonus. I probably wouldn’t have to wear glasses. Vanity won out. I’d been wearing glasses for over thirty years and the thought of getting rid of them was worth the additional price of $3600.

Prior to surgery I did some research. Crystalens were designed by Bausch & Lomb in 2004. They are designed to move with your eye. In order to do so, they are shaped like a pair of glasses with only one lens. That single lens has two arms attached with small hinges, just like regular glasses. It looks like a “U”. This tiny Crystalens is inserted into your eye and only takes around twenty-five minutes. Local anesthesia is used. The surgery was fast and painless. A piece of cake as we say.

The first surgery was on March 19, 2013. The second was on April 2, 2013. Even after the first procedure, my improved eyesight was miraculous. I was thrilled. With my doctor’s permission, I flew to Paris on April 16 to continue research on a new book.

All was well until the morning of April 26. When I woke up, my eyes were very blurry. I could still read but was very far-sighted. In order to see the 40 inch television screen clearly, I had to sit two feet in front of it. Subway and street signs were difficult to read unless I was very close to them. Poor depth perception made me very unstable on stairs. I couldn’t differentiate between six inches and two feet. I was unsteady on my feet and couldn’t see red and green traffic lights. I absolutely could not drive a car.

I couldn’t go out at night alone. I hired a young woman to help with computer related work, shopping and accompanying me to evening events. All work on my book stopped. I started using taxis and then due to less exercise, gained weight. As a partial solution, I ordered temporary glasses, which cost $650 due to the severe astigmatism.

The depression caused by my eye problems increased as my dependence on other people became a daily necessity.

After I emailed my doctor, he increased the doses of Durezol, a cortisone eye drop. Of course, he would see me but I was in France. In desperation, I saw a French optometrist. He said drops would not help. I needed glasses but it was too soon to prescribe them. He said my vision was too impaired for me to fly to California alone. I might hurt myself by falling over luggage or stairs. I sent the results to my La Jolla doctor who also recommended corrective lenses.

Bausch & Lomb France was notified of my problems. They quickly referred me to an excellent French eye surgeon at Cochin Hospital in Paris. He diagnosed the “Z Syndrome” in both eyes. Basically, the Crystalens had buckled and were at an angle. One of the arms on each lens had flipped over backwards, forming a “Z.” No one would say what caused it, but apparently this was not a new problem with Crystalens.

DoubleZSyndrome

My options were a laser treatment called a Y.A.G.; inserting a capsular ring, trying to correct the hinge and reposition the Crystalens; removing the Crystalens and inserting a monofocal lens. All had possible serious side affects.

I wanted them out. I felt like I had two time bombs in my eyes.

On July 18, my French surgeon removed 90 % of the Crystalens in my right eye. He left in the haptics or end legs of the lens because they had adhered to my eye and were outside the capsular bag. He inserted an Alcon monofocal lens. My vision improved immediately but my eyes were still very tired due to the left eye. I still could not fly.

Since my surgeon was going on vacation in August, we waited until September 10 to operate on the left eye. Everything went well. I now use +300 glasses for reading. My distance vision is normal.

Fortunately, I have excellent U.S. health insurance, which covered most of my medical expenses. The total cost for a tourist using the French eye clinic and surgeon was $4000 per eye. Viva la France. The cost in La Jolla for the original eye surgery was about $11,500 per eye.

When I included the cost of the Crystalens that were removed, my out-of-pocket expenses were about $6000 for the temporary glasses, assistant and taxis.

Prior to surgery, not being an expert on the subject, I didn’t ask the right questions. Instead, I read the Bausch & Lomb brochures which my doctor gave me. He said I was a good candidate. My French surgeon, who performs about 600 cataract operations each year, had a different opinion.

Last year, he only used Crystalens on forty patients who had very small eyes. He said this leaves very little room for the Crystalens to move or form the Z Syndrome. He now uses photos of my eyes at medical conferences to inform other doctors about these risks.

Before you agree to any major medical product or procedure, be sure to search the subject on the internet, such as, “Crystalens problems or complaints.” Dozens and dozens of complaints will flood the screen. One site advocated a class action suit.

Double Z Syndrome is not a thriller. It is very serious and I’m fortunate to have a positive outcome, apart from the cost, pain and suffering and the delay in completing my book.

The end.