June 2, 2004.
Normally, the lens of the eye is transparent to focus sharp images onto the retina. A cataract is a clouding of the lens. The clouded areas interfere with the passage of light and images. Patients may have blurred or double vision, glare, poor night vision, a need for brighter lights for reading and frequent changes in eyewear prescriptions. Eventually, the lens can completely cloud vision and lead to blindness.
According to Prevent Blindness America, cataracts affect more than 20 million people in the U.S. The condition is more common with age. By 65, more than half of all Americans have some degree of cataract. Cataracts are a leading cause of blindness in this country.
An age-related cataract can develop in one of two ways. The most common method involves protein deposits. The lens of the eye is made of mostly protein and water. Over time, some of the protein may clump together, creating tiny clouded deposits. Those deposits slowly grow. As the cataract increases in size, vision becomes more impaired.
Cataracts can also develop when the clear lens starts to turn color, becoming more of a yellowish brown. In early stages, the changes may not cause any noticeable changes in vision. As the lens becomes more tinted, images take on a "brownish" hue. Patients may have difficulty reading or distinguishing blues and purples.
Cataract Surgery/Lens Replacement.
More than 1.5 million cataract surgeries (removal of the clouded lens) are performed each year in the U.S. When the diseased lens is removed, it is usually replaced with an artificial lens. The new lens is needed to focus images. Without the lens, vision is extremely distorted. Patients who are unable to receive an intraocular lens (or don't want one) need to wear thick, high-powered glasses.
About 90 percent of patients have improved vision after cataract surgery. However, standard intraocular implants are unable to accommodate full range of vision. Many patients still require corrective eyewear for middle and close visual tasks.
A new type of intraocular lens may improve vision after cataract surgery and eliminate the need for glasses. It's called the Crystalens™. The silicone lens has tiny hinges on the sides and moves with the eye muscles (just like the natural lens). That allows the lens to move in and out of focus to accommodate changes in visual distance. The Crystalens should last a lifetime.
The Crystalens was approved by the FDA in November 2003. It's the first intraocular lens to restore the ability of cataract patients to see both near and far. The lens may not provide 20/20 vision. But studies show roughly 98 percent of patients receiving the Crystalens can read, drive or use the computer without the need for glasses.
For information on the Crystalens™, visit the company's website at http://www.crystalens.com
For information on cataracts or cataract surgery: American Academy of Ophthalmology, public website, http://www.medem.com
American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, 4000 Legato Rd., Suite 850, Fairfax, VA 22033, http://www.ascrs.org
National Eye Institute, National Eye Health Education Program, 2020 Vision Place, Bethesda, MD 20892, http://www.nei.nih.gov Prevent Blindness America, 500 East Remington Rd., Schaumburg, IL 60173, http://www.preventblindness.org
© 2004, WSOC.
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