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Having Cataract Surgery? New Accommodating Lens Restores Youthful Vision

Armen Hareyan's picture

People who have cataract surgery may not have to worry about misplacing their reading glasses any longer, thanks to a new implantable lens that moves like the eye's natural lens. The new lens is designed to shift its position within the eye, allowing both near and far vision.

Everyone loses the natural elasticity of the lens with age. This creates a loss of accommodation, or ability to see at different distances without glasses. The condition is known as presbyopia, and, as a result, most people need bifocals or reading glasses beginning around age 45.

Michael Smith-Wheelock, M.D., ophthalmologist at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center, now offers a new accommodating intraocular lens (IOL) to some individuals undergoing cataract surgery. He has been pleased with the results, noting that it provides his patients with functional vision, or, as Dr. Smith Wheelock says, "good walking around vision." While individuals may still need eye glasses for extremely small print, for example in medicine inserts, most regain the ability to read a newspaper and see into the distance without glasses.

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Robin Dudley, among the first to have the surgery at Kellogg, says the new lens has changed his outlook on life. An auto mechanic and teacher of the trade, he was beginning to experience double vision due to cataracts. "Imagine looking at a running engine and not knowing whether a sharp object is nearby," he said. "I thought about retiring, but now, why should I?" He jumped at the chance to try the IOL because it would give him the range of vision he needed for his work.

The lens exceeded Mr. Dudley's hopes. He easily adapted to it, using eye drops for only a short period after surgery. Two weeks later, Mr. Dudley threw away his reading glasses. "It's beyond great. I wish this had been available five years ago," he said.

"A clouding of the lens inside the eye, known as a cataract, will affect just about everyone sooner or later," says Dr. Smith-Wheelock. When visual quality is sufficiently impaired, cataract surgery is performed to remove the cloudy lens and replace it with a fixed artificial clear lens.

The new lens, Crystalens