ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Childhood Food Allergies on the Rise
Climate Change Could Sting Allergy, Asthma Sufferers
Air Pollution May Raise Blood Pressure
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Naprapathy: A Hands-On Approach to Pain Management
Uncover Why Turmeric Helps You Heal
Bitter Melon Extract May Slow, Stop Breast Cancer
ANIMAL CARE
Beware of Dog Bites
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
BONES & JOINTS
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Too Few Screened for Abdominal Aneurysm, Study Says
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
CANCER
Yoga Eases Sleep Problems Among Cancer Survivors
Occaisonal Dieting May Cut Breast Cancer, Study Says
Where You Live May Affect Your Cancer Diagnosis
CAREGIVING
Critically Ill Patients Lack Vitamin D
Are Hospital Mobile Phones Dialing Up Superbugs?
Mild Flu Season Coming to a Close
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Grapefruit-Heavy Diet Helped Spur Dangerous Clot
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
An Apple a Day May Help Keep Heart Disease Away
COSMETIC
Science May Banish Bad Hair Days
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
Gum Chewing May Cut Craving for Snacks
DENTAL, ORAL
Acid Drinks Blamed for Increase in Tooth Erosion
Study Links Osteoporosis Drugs to Jaw Trouble
Rheumatoid Arthritis May Harm Gums
DIABETES
Out-of-Control Blood Sugar May Affect Memory
Abnormal Heart Rhythm Boosts Death Risk for Diabetics
Vitamin K Slows Insulin Resistance in Older Men
DIET, NUTRITION
Mediterranean Diet Helps Protect Aging Brain
10 Beginner Tips for Fast Weight Loss, the Low-Carb Way!
Breakfast Eggs Keep Folks on Diet
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Controversial Chemical Lingers Longer in the Body
Preparing for a Chlorine Gas Disaster
Vitamin D Deficit May Trigger MS Risk Gene
EYE CARE, VISION
Protein Might One Day Prevent Blindness
Green Tea May Ward Off Eye Disease
Eye Disease, Cognitive Decline Linked in Study
FITNESS
Moderate Aerobic Exercise Lowers Diabetics' Liver Fat
Maximize Your Run
Fitness Fades Fast After 45
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Intestinal Bacteria Trigger Immune Response
Olive Oil May Protect Against Bowel Disease
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
GENERAL HEALTH
Swine Flu Now Reported in All 50 States
Vitamin D Best Taken With Largest Meal of Day, Study Finds
Keep Fire Safety in Mind as You Celebrate
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
Study Suggests Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors
Airport Full Body Scanners Pose No Health Threat: Experts
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Heart Disease May Be Prevented By Taking Fish Oils, Study Shows
Risk Factor for Stroke More Common Among Whites
Dark Chocolate May Lower Stroke Risk
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
More Medicinal Uses for Pomegranate
Hand Washing 10 Times a Day May Help Keep Flu Away
The HPV Vaccine: Preventative Medicine or Human Sacrifice?
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
More Calcium And Dairy Products in Childhood Could Mean Longer Life
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Combo Treatment Eases Wheezing in Babies
MEN'S HEALTH
More Vitamin C May Mean Less Chance of Gout
Countdown to Hair Loss
Could Chinese Herb Be a Natural Viagra?
MENTAL HEALTH
A Little Alcohol May Stave Off Alzheimer's
Bullying Seems to Affect Kids Years Later
Environmental Chemicals May Affect Male Reproduction
PAIN
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Heart Defects in Newborns Linked to Antidepressants
Acupuncture May Ease Depression During Pregnancy
Sugary Colas Tied to Gestational Diabetes
SENIORS
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
Living Alone Increases Odds of Developing Dementia
Daily dose of beet juice promotes brain health in older adults
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Natural Relief for Painful Menstrual Cramps
Woman in America Are Delaying Motherhood, Study Says
Vitamin D Good for Breast Cancer Patients
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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

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