Durham, N.C. — Improvements to cataract surgery and lenses can not only help people see more clearly, but can also help solve their lifelong vision problems and let them ditch their glasses.
People commonly start experiencing changes in their vision, starting in their mid 40s. More than half of Americans have cataracts by age 80.
Surgery can correct cataracts, though, and the latest in lens implant technology can also replace glasses.
WRAL News anchor David Crabtree went to his eye doctor recently after noticing his right-eye vision was getting blurry, despite reading glasses.
"He said, 'You have cataracts growing in each eye, but one is going to be progressive. It will grow quickly,'" Crabtree said.
Cataracts develop inside the eye's lens. "Eventually, the lens becomes cloudy, and that's the cataract," said eye surgeon Dr. Alan Carlson, of Durham.
Carlson said he could remove 99 percent of the cataract in Crabtree's eye, along with a few bonuses: "Get rid of the astigmatism and use the latest version of the intraocular lenses that reduce the need for reading glasses."
During the surgery, Carlson inserted an ultrasound wand through a tiny incision into the lens capsule, broke up the cataract and then removed it. He next injected a Crystalens implant, made from flexible silicon, through the tiny incision. The lens then unfolded in the lens.
"I've put the lens back where the old cataract was," Carlson said.
Intraocular lens implants have been around 60 years, but the technology has recently been vastly improved.
"Up until recently, we didn't have lenses that changed the dynamic focusing to try to return you to the way you were as a child," Carlson said.
Crabtree's near vision is corrected, without sacrificing intermediate or distance vision.
Crabtree's procedure was over in 8 minutes and, he said, had another benefit: "zero" discomfort.
Crystalens implants cost a couple more thousand dollars per eye than do standard lenses. Most insurance covers only the cost of the standard lenses.