FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — If you had to choose, would you rather see things up close or far away? People with cataracts used to have to make that decision.
With cataract surgery, doctors remove the cloudy lens and replace it with an artificial one. The problem is that the lens had one setting -- either near or far.
Now, people with cataracts and other eye conditions do not have to make that difficult choice. The crystal lens is the first implant that works exactly like the human eye.
The lens instantly adjusts focus so people with it can see objects that are near and far.
"It's introduced the ability to correct the loss of accommodation, or moving the focus," said Dr. Michael Woodcock.
During the 10-minute procedure, Woodcock attaches the lens to the muscles in the eye.
"It will kick in pretty well in about two weeks, and it will continue to improve for about a year," he said.
In clinical trials, most patients no longer needed glasses. Woodcock says 98 percent of those patients could read small print.
The surgery is primarily for people with cataracts. Woodcock also uses it on patients, like Ron Matthews, who want to get rid of their glasses or contacts, but cannot have
A brain aneurysm destroyed the muscle around Matthews' eye.
"Anything touching the right side of my head really gets irritated," he said.
Matthews is one of the first people to get the crystal lens. Leona O'Berry had the procedure in March.
"So far I'm amazed at how much I can see," she said. "I have not worn glasses since the day I had the second operation, the second eye done," she said.
As Matthews waits to have the procedure on his second eye, he says he cannot believe how well he sees already, and is excited about what is to come.
"It's phenomenal. You feel like a new person," he said.
The procedure is so new that insurance companies are still figuring out how to cover it.
The crystal lens itself costs $800. Right now, Medicare does not cover it. Many private insurance companies will pay for the procedure, but the patient must pay for the lens.