Biofinity benefits

OT ’s Emily McCormick speaks to Heidi Smith and her optometrist, Vicki Macken, about how, as a sufferer of chronic uveitis, contact lenses have changed her life

18 Oct 2015 by Emily McCormick

Heidi Smith has chronic uveitis, a condition which she has suffered with for more than 20 years.

Heidi Smith has chronic uveitis, a condition which she has suffered with for more than 20 years.
Ms Smith first noticed a change to her vision when completing a work placement during her degree in her early 20s. Initially, it was close and prolonged computer work which would trigger a pain and redness in her right eye, but this quickly spread to a sensitivity to bright light and blurred vision.
Uveitis is driven by an immune response in the eye and results in inflammation to the uvea. The inflammation is known to occur as the body’s response to tissue damage, germs or toxins, and for many it is therefore acute. 
Unfortunately, Ms Smith describes herself as one of the “unlucky ones,” explaining to OT that while most people’s bodies find a way to combat and beat uveitis, her symptoms have never fully retreated. While she has spent periods of time pain-free, the condition has regularly resurfaced over the last two decades, and despite learning how to “control” the complaint to an extent, it has never receded completely.
“After time I did realise that the redness and soreness would flare up during periods of stress and illness,” Ms Smith told OT. “So I tried to avoid those types of situations, as well as limiting the time I spent in front of a computer,” she added. However, Ms Smith admits that this was not a long-term solution and some situations are simply not always avoidable.
Ms Smith used this knowledge of her condition, which manifested in her right eye, to contain symptoms as much as possible. Yet over time it began to affect her quality of life quite dramatically, with daily symptoms including blurred vision, redness, soreness, sensitivity to light and discomfort. As a result, Ms Smith’s vision worsened and also restricted her in daily life.
At the early stages of diagnosis, which saw Ms Smith referred to Sussex Eye Hospital in Brighton, she was prescribed steroid eye drops to treat the uveitis. A side effect of the drops is that through with long-term use, the lens can become damaged and vision can deteriorate, it can also result in early onset cataracts. This was the case for Ms Smith.
As her vision worsened, she was unable to drive at night, nor for long distances, she struggled to read small print and perform what she describes as ‘motherly tasks,’ such as helping her children with their homework.
As a bookkeeper she admits that her performance at work also suffered. Ms Smith told OT: “Most people take their eye sight for granted and it got to a point where it had become so frustrating that I couldn’t join in and do the things that others were doing. I couldn’t help my children with their homework and started to feel like I wasn’t being a good parent.”


"The difference has been amazing. I’m living the life I want to live with my friends and family and being the mum I want to be."


REFERRAL

Over the years Ms Smith saw countless doctors and eye surgeons who were baffled as to why steroid eye drops had failed to help clear up the condition completely.
Following two unsuccessful cataract operations, Ms Smith took the tough decision to have the lens in her right eye fully removed, leaving her a true aphake.  
After the operation and once the eye had healed, Ms Smith was referred to optometrist Vicki Macken at the Hassocks Eyecare Centre for contact lenses.
On meeting Ms Smith in June last year, Ms Macken’s first thought was about how sensitive the eye was and how carefully she must treat it to avoid any further problems.
Speaking about the initial consultation, the optometrist told OT: “I could see how sensitive and prone to inflammation the eye was and knew I had to carefully look after it and try not to create any more problems through the contact lenses I would be prescribing.”
Assessing Ms Smith’s situation and considering a number of options, Ms Macken ruled out daily disposables as an option and opted to fit her with CooperVision’s Biofinity extended wear contact lenses.
“I went for Biofinity XR (extended range) because they are super breathable and I was concerned that I didn’t want to add to the problems Heidi had incurred in the past,” Ms Macken explained.
However, the optometrist did not stop there. On refracting Ms Smith’s left eye, which at the time was considered her ‘good eye’, she discovered a slight astigmatism and set about correcting it also. This time, Ms Macken opted to prescribe Biofinity toric for astigmatism.
The combination of correcting both eyes, gave Ms Smith a vision that she was really surprised by, Ms Macken said with a smile.

HAPPY ENDING

Ms Smith took to contact lenses very well. “Right from the beginning, both lenses fitted really well,” Ms Macken told OT, adding “Heidi mastered getting them in and out like a natural.”
Like many clinicians, Ms Macken is very modest when speaking about the difference which the management route she set out has made to Ms Smith’s life. “Obviously Heidi’s condition was managed by a number of fantastic NHS doctors prior to my meeting her, otherwise she wouldn’t see as well as she does,” she told OT.  
“Many right decisions were made along the way, and in some ways I feel like I got to put the icing on the cake by prescribing the most suitable vision correction for her,” she added.
Speaking about the benefits the contact lenses have brought her, Ms Smith told OT: “The lenses perform amazingly well for me and I am able to wear them for 12–14 hours every day. It has been a massive change for me, at home, at work and when I’m driving. I’m so much more confident in everything that involves my eyesight. ”
She added: “The difference has been amazing. I’m living the life I want to live with my friends and family and being the mum I want to be. When I first put the contact lens into my eye, it was like opening a window; I could see colours and brightness, it was like I was given my sight back.”
To watch a video of her story visit, CooperVision’s website.  (http://coopervision.co.uk/practitioner/build-your-practice/video-library/life-enhancing-contact-lenses)
Ms Smith’s story was shared as part of contact lens manufacturer CooperVision’s Life Enhancing competition, which sought to find a case study that showed how practitioners have the power to transform people’s lives through the prescribing of contact lenses.

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