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

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.

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Mary Duncan

About Mary Duncan

Mary Duncan, a native San Diegan, grew up in National City, where Henry Miller said he found his identity. In searching for her identity, she has traveled to numerous countries and prefers to be where there is action, diversity and controversy. Her research specialty as a professor at San Diego State University was the “troubles” in Belfast, Northern Ireland and the Irish Republican Army. She focused on the conflict’s impact on children and the internal organization of the I.R.A. and its cell groups. In addition she has researched children and play patterns in Mexican squatter villages, Arab Tourism in London and international terrorism. In 1982, she moved to La Jolla, a seaside community in San Diego. She met people who introduced her to the worlds of Henry Miller, Simone de Beauvoir, Colette and other writers. And it is in these worlds that she found relief from the stress and uncertainty that emanated from her Belfast research. Paris and La Jolla entered her life almost simultaneously. In Paris she created a circle of friends and started building a foundation for a life in the City of Light. After her marriage to Yuri Loskutov, a Russian, she lived in Moscow several months of the year and founded Shakespeare and Company Bookstore Moscow. Since 2000, she has mainly lived in Paris. In 2005, she purchased an archive consisting of audio tapes, photographs and correspondence related to the life of Henry Miller. Some of these materials are described in her memoir, “Henry Miller is Under My Bed: People and Place on the Way to Paris.” (2008). She is a member of the Advisory Committee for the Henry Miller Memorial Library in BIg Sur, California and is is a patron of the Shakespeare and Company Literary Festival. In 2008, she founded the Paris Writers Group. In between her writing and travels, she continues to live in Paris.

9 thoughts on “Crystalens and Double Z Syndrome: When a Writer’s Eyes Go Bad

  1. Wow, Mary, so sorry you had this experience, but we are grateful that you are helping spread the word. I just had my first routine eye exam in years and was told that I have an early cataract forming and then eventually I will need surgery. It is good to about your experience so I can make sure I am well-informed when it comes my time. Hope you are healing well.

  2. My wife had Crystalens IOLs in both eyes in August, 2012. Afterward, she was so light sensitive that she had to sit in a dark room with sunglasses and could not go outside. Her vision was very poor, 20/200 some days and 20/60 other days. The surgeon in Raleigh, NC did not know what was wrong. We went to Duke Eye Center and Johns Hopkins and they could not determine the problem. The told her the lenses looked perfect and they were not the problem. She wanted them exchanged but no one would do it because they had not seen this before. Finally, in September of 2013 we convinced the original eye surgeon, Dr. Michael Kelly, to exchange the right eye to see if that would help. In less than 8 hours, she could see clearly and the light sensitivity was much improved. None of the lens was adhered to her eye, which surprised the surgeon. He did the other eye 3 weeks later with the same result. She can now go out side and only needs sunglasses in bright sunlight. Her vision is 20/20 in both eyes and she can drive again. The doctors speculate that her eyes rejected the material that the Crystalens is made from and that was the cause of her problems. They replaced them with an Alcon monofocal lens. We were out $11,000 in out-of-pocket expenses and Bausch -Lomb is refusing to compensate us, even for the cost of the lenses. I am afraid this is going to require a lawsuit.

  3. Mary I have missed your pwg emails but glad to find you here. so sorry to hear of your horrific ordeal but I biw to your tenacity in getting through it. I hope all smoother now xxx Vivian from South Africa.

  4. i, too, am disappointed with my crystal lense. I am curious if there are any class action against Bausch and Laub?

  5. I Paid $5500.00 out of pocket for both eyes for crystalens plus what the insurance paid The Dr. claimed I would have clear vision my eyes are a mess. I cannot afford to go to more Dr.’s. I am near sited in one eye plus a film over my eye that changes from light to dark. I had a bad astigmatism it is still there. I cannot read and have my computer zoomed at 175 still having to blink. I just do not know what to do it has been almost 6 months. I go back to the Dr. next week I think he is going to release me.

  6. Dear Chestine,
    I’m sorry for not replying sooner. I hope your eyes have improved. I’m pleased you found my article. I’m going to update it so
    more people find it.
    Mary Duncan

  7. Dear Teresa,
    I’m so sorry for being slow to reply. I need to check my messages more often. Bauch and Lomb Crystalens was sold to
    another company. I think educating other people is our best option. Hope your eyes have improved.
    Best regards,
    Mary Duncan

  8. Dear John,
    I’m so sorry for not replying sooner. My site got hacked.
    I am so pleased your wife’s eyes are much better. She is very fortunate.
    I still have floaters but can function pretty well.
    I’m going to update my article so more people will see it.
    Best regards,
    Mary Duncan

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