Traffic, Dust Linked to Asthma in Kids
Childhood Food Allergies on the Rise
Know Your Asthma Triggers
Could Chinese Herb Be a Natural Viagra?
The Zen Way to Pain Relief
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
Safe Toys for Dogs
Healthy adults have potential autoimmune disease-causing cells
For All Their Plusses, Pets Pose a Risk for Falls, Too
Drinking Cuts Rheumatoid Arthritis Risk
Quitting Smoking Doubles Survival in Early Stage Lung Cancer
Yoga May Bring Calm to Breast Cancer Treatment
Seaweed May Help Treat Lymphoma
Reduce Suffering, Urge Heart Failure Patients and Caregivers
Mom's Smoking May Lead to SIDS
Omega-3 Fatty Acid May Help 'Preemie' Girls' Brains
Smog Tougher on the Obese
Bye, Bye Back Fat?
Support Network May Play Role in Benefits of Drinking
Get Sugared!.... Its a sweet choice for hair removal
Mouse Study Finds Molecule That Tells Hair to Grow
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
Rheumatoid Arthritis May Harm Gums
Gum Disease Might Boost Cancer Risk
Health Tip: At Risk for Gingivitis
Chamomile Tea May Ward Off Diabetes Damage
Out-of-Control Blood Sugar May Affect Memory
Boosting Vitamin D Can Do a Heart Good
Imagine Food Aromas That Prevent Overeating
Folic Acid Might Offer Allergy Relief
Vitamin B12 Key to Aging Brain
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Old-Growth Forests Dying Off in U.S. West
Ozone Pollution Taking Toll on American Lives
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
Magnetic Pulses to Brain Improve Lazy Eye in Adults
Stem Cells Repair Damaged Corneas in Mice
Certain Diabetes Drugs May Pose Eye Risk
Daily Exercise at School Yields Rewards
Almost Two-Thirds of Americans Meet Exercise Guidelines
Maximize Your Run
New Yogurt May Ease Stomach Ulcers
Traditional Nonsurgical GERD Treatments Not Impressive
New Guidelines Issued for Management of IBS
Vitamin D and Bone Health: Are You Getting Enough of This Important Vitamin?
The Brain Comes Alive With the Sounds of Music
Can a Bad Boss Make You Sick?
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Magnet Therapy May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression
Subway Defibrillators Save Lives
Imaging Sheds Light on How Acupuncture Works
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Soy Protein Doesn't Lower Cholesterol
An Apple a Day May Help Keep Heart Disease Away
Years of Heavy Smoking Raises Heart Risks
Swine Flu Closes Three Schools in NYC
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
The HPV Vaccine: Preventative Medicine or Human Sacrifice?
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
Daily Exercise at School Yields Rewards
When It Comes to Toys, Shop Smart, Shop Safe
Exercise Helps Reduce Falls in Young and Old
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
Strenuous Daily Workout May Keep Cancer at Bay
Physical Activity May Prolong Survival After Colon Cancer
Optimism May Boost Immune System
Psychotherapy Can Boost Happiness More Than Money
Worries About Weight Are Tied to Teen Suicide Tries
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Mom's Extra Pregnancy Pounds May Raise Child's Heart Risks
Calcium Supplements Cut Blood Lead Levels During Pregnancy
Yoga's Benefits Outweigh Risks for Pregnant Women
Laughter Can Stimulate a Dull Appetite
A Little Alcohol May Stave Off Alzheimer's
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
Acupuncture May Relieve Acid Indigestation In Pregnancy
Vitamin D Good for Breast Cancer Patients
Broccoli May Help Battle Breast Cancer
Add your Article

It's a Whole New Outlook for Cataract Patients

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Oct. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Cataracts used to be terrible to treat.

Removing them meant stitches in your eye and days spent recuperating. And artificial replacement lenses only came in one power, which meant eyeglasses for most recipients.

But those days are over.

Cataract surgery has been honed to the point where it's now done on an outpatient basis, and people are back seeing in no time at all with vision often much improved over what they had -- even before their lenses clouded up.

"We don't usually have to put a single stitch in the eye," said Dr. Jim Salz, a clinical professor of ophthalmology at the University of Southern California and a spokesman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. "We make an incision that seals itself. Recovery is much quicker and much more painless."

And many patients aren't only back seeing, they're seeing better than ever, thanks to advances in artificial lenses that more closely mirror normal vision.

"Cataracts are the most common operation performed anywhere in the body in the United States," said Dr. David F. Chang, clinical professor of ophthalmology at the University of California, San Francisco, and chairman of the American Academy of Ophthalmology's Cataract Preferred Practice Pattern Committee. "We're now approaching three million cataract surgeries performed annually, and there have been many improvements in the techniques."

A cataract is a clouding of the eye's lens. Most cataracts are related to growing older, and by age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery, according to the U.S. National Eye Institute.

Some cataracts occur when the proteins that make up much of an eye's lens begin to clump together and start to cloud a small area of the lens. Over time, the cataract can grow larger and cloud more of the lens, affecting vision.

Other cataracts involve the normally clear lens slowly changing to a yellowish or brownish color, which adds a brownish tint to vision.

Researchers don't know exactly why a lens changes with age. One possibility is damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals. Smoking and exposure to ultraviolet light are two sources of free radicals. It also could just be general wear and tear on the lens over the years that causes changes in protein fibers, according to eye experts at the Mayo Clinic.

Most cataract surgeries are performed using a procedure known as phacoemulsification. A tiny incision, usually smaller than 3 millimeters, is made on the side of the cornea -- the clear, dome-shaped surface that covers the front of the eye -- and a tiny probe is inserted into the eye. The device emits ultrasound waves that break up the cataract.

"We break the cataract up into small pieces that are sucked out through this tube with very little discomfort to the patient," Salz said. "The surgery can be over anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 minutes. They have very little discomfort, and then they go home. Patients used to be hospitalized for three or four days, with stitches in their eye."

But the truly revolutionary innovation comes into play once the cataract has been removed. Recent breakthroughs have given patients a number of options for replacement lenses that can make their eyesight as good as new.

"In the past, we would take the cataract out, put an implant in, and the patient would have better vision than they'd ever had in their life," Salz said. "But they would still need glasses to read."

That changed about four years ago, when companies began producing artificial lenses that could mimic the eye's ability to see both near and far.

"The multifocal lens is a lens with a special optical design that provides some focus at distance and some focus up close, and therefore reduces the necessity to wear glasses as much," said Chang, who's also chairman of the American Society of Cataract & Refractive Surgery's Cataract Clinical Committee.

"The lens is creating two focal points at any given time," Chang added. "It's like we're here talking, and there's music playing in the background. At any point, you could tune me out and listen to the music, or you could pay so much attention to what I'm saying that you're not aware of the music at all."

Another type of lens is designed to move and flex in response to the eye muscles that control focus. "Unfortunately, it doesn't allow them to focus from the farthest pint to the nearest point, like a young person's lens," Chang said. "But compared to the conventional lens implants, it again provides more range of focus, allowing the patient to wear glasses less."

There remains one significant barrier to access to these new technologies -- cost.

Medicare will cover cataract surgery with standard replacement lenses, but the newer and more revolutionary lens designs are considered luxury items, Salz said. Patients may have to pay $800 to $900 for the additional cost of the lens implant, and another $700 to $1,500 extra to the surgeon, he said.

More information

To learn more about cataracts, visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

SOURCES: Jim Salz, M.D., clinical professor of ophthalmology, University of Southern California, and spokesman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology; David F. Chang, M.D., clinical professor of ophthalmology, University of California, San Francisco, chairman, Cataract Preferred Practice Pattern Committee, American Academy of Ophthalmology, and chairman, Cataract Clinical Committee, American Society of Cataract & Refractive Surgery; U.S. National Eye Institute; Mayo Clinic

Last Updated: Oct. 03, 2008

Copyright 2008 ScoutNews, LLC. All rights reserved.

More articles at