Over 250 million people around the world suffer from some form of visual impairment – yet four out of five cases could been prevented or even cured. Now, the inventor of corrective laser eye surgery has made a bold claim, saying that “there shouldn’t be any blind person ten years from now in the world”.
Dr Josef Bille, a pioneering and award-winning scientist and ophthalmologist, was the first to patent LASIK (Laser-Assisted in situ Keratomileusis) laser vision correction procedures, and has since gone on to file nearly 100 other patents that have shaped the field of laser eye surgery. Companies Dr Bille has helped launch have provided the majority of the 280 million surgeries that have been completed around the world to date.
Key to his claims of eliminating blindness is the use of femtosecond lasers, a technology that has been used in cataract surgery since 2001. Femtosecond lasers are ultra-short and focused beams of light that precisely target the affected lens fibres without any cutting. The lasers can pinpoint individual molecules and adjust their focus, while avoiding healthy material.
“It’s a treatment which can make every eye perfect,” says Bille.
“We call it perfect vision, it is twice as good as normal vision, so you see twice as fine detail at much better contrast… Five times better contrast vision at dim lighting conditions, rain or in foggy areas.”
While this procedure could have a significant impact curing visual impairment around the world, Bille’s optimistic target could be restricted by the significant costs of the units, especially when there are still challenges introducing basic eye screenings in developing parts of the world.
That said, Dr Bille is the same man that was told that laser surgery would not work 30 years and hundreds of millions of operations ago, so there might not be any harm having some faith in the so-called “father” of corrective eye procedures.