Cataracts Technology Gives Kentucky Woman New Vision

Contributor: Christine Winter
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Updated: 2/29/2012 5:50 pm
Cataracts affect millions of people around the globe, and for many of us they will be a normal part of our aging process.

But luckily technology is making it easier than ever to see clearly.

Susan Tavis is an advertising representative at ABC 36 who's been dealing with vision problems for years due to her cataracts.

Like Susan, most Americans suffering from cataracts will progressively lose their eyesight over the course of years before they finally realize they have a problem.

"I suspect after I looked at her lens that they've been there five years, but its only been the past three to six months that they've really been to the point where they bother her," said Susan's ophthalmologist and eye surgeon, Dr. Thomas Abell.

Cataracts are caused by a number of factors such as sunlight, smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, and medications.

To correct them, a small incision is made on the eye.

Just under the surface lies the cloudy cataractous lens.

It's removed, and a new, clear one is put in.

The procedure is done one eye at a time on separate days.

On surgery day, Susan arrives a couple hours prior to surgery to be prepped, though the procedure itself only takes about ten minutes.

Susan stays awake through it all as Dr. Abell uses a microscope, foot petals, and precise hand movements to make the fraction of an inch incision.

Before you know it, the new lens is put in.

Fast forward a week, and Susan is back at Dr. Abell's office, having only missed a day or two from work after her surgeries.

Susan says she's noticing improvement in her vision each day, even experiencing some expected "flashing light" phenomena in her vision as her brain and eyes try to relearn how to communicate.

Susan learns her vision has gone from 20-60 to 20-25 in that amount of time, and she's certainly appreciating her newfound freedoms and clear vision.

Seeing the time on her alarm clock in the middle of the night no longer involves her scrambling to find a light and her glasses, and her morning routine is much easier, too.

"I can tell the difference between black and navy, which is huge. That helps when you get dressed in the morning," laughs Susan.

She will still need more time to heal before she knows for sure if any fine tuning of her vision with Lasik surgery will be necessary, but for now she's enjoying her new simpler and clearer life.

"You don't know how many times I get ready to leave the house and look for my glasses because I feel like I should have them on and then I realize I can see without them. It's incredible," said Susan.

Years ago, doctors would wait until cataracts were "ripe" or hardened before removing them.

These days, the sooner they are detected, the easier they are to remove, since "soft" cataracts are more easily vacuumed out of the small incisions made in modern cataract surgery.

The procedure is often covered by insurance, though more advanced lens implants, like bifocals, may cost more.

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