SURGEONS have performed an eye operation in Gibraltar that could spell the end of stressful UK journeys to fix a common medical problem.

Gibraltar Health Authority eye expert Dr Magdalena Popiela carried out a cornea transplant on March 19 for a condition that can affect 1 in 3,000 people.

A corneal problem can make victims find it difficult to see because of what scientists believe to be a genetic issue.

The cornea tissue is located at the front of the eye, protecting the iris and the pupil, being used to refract light.

The operation involved bringing a donated cornea from Venice, Italy, in a race against the clock.

A local courier company delivered the cornea within 24 hours of a donor being found thanks to the help of the Customs.

In the past patients had to stay in the UK for a few weeks before the eye had settled a bit, making it a costly operation for the local health service.

Patients would have to go through a long recovery from surgery that could take from six weeks to two years that involves various check-ups.

They would normally have to return to the Rock with blurry vision, which could be quite uncomfortable.

Consultant Ophthalmologist, Dr Magdalena Popiela called the surgery ‘a milestone achievement’ which could now allow similar operations to be carried locally.

“Gibraltar’s first corneal graft patient is recovering well from the surgery under close supervision of the eye department at St Bernard’s Hospital,” said Popiela.

Minister for Health Samantha Sacramento boasted that it was ‘tremendous progress’ to do the corneal transplant in Gibraltar.

“It seems incredible that we are now able to offer this surgery at home by repatriating this service,” said Sacramento.

“Our patients can feel safe and comfortable and the burden of travel is no longer necessary.

“I would like to thank everyone involved in making this a reality.

“This achievement is a first for the GHA and is one that Gibraltar should be immensely proud of.”

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