August 18, 1999
Web posted at: 11:45 a.m. EDT (1545 GMT)
Whom it helps
With age, the normally transparent lens of the eye can become cloudy or opaque and develop a cataract. Over time, light rays can't pass through the eye as easily, and as a result there can be blurry vision, light sensitivity, glare and increased nearsightedness. Surgery is recommended
when vision interferes with daily living.
How it is done
While many people think cataract surgery is done with a
laser, it is not. Sometimes a laser is used after the original operation if the back membrane of the lens turns cloudy, but lasers aren't currently used in the primary operation. Cataracts are removed by making a small incision in the eye and then suctioning the cloudy lens with microsurgical instruments. To replace the natural lens, a plastic intraocular lens implant is placed inside the eye (it's folded as it's inserted through the tiny incision), and then the incision is closed. The entire procedure takes up to 12 minutes, says Dr. Samuel Masket, an ophthalmologist in West Hills, California, and clinical professor of ophthalmology at the UCLA Center for Health Sciences.
About 98 percent of patients see 20/40 or better, Masket says.
What can go wrong
Complications are rare, says Masket, but can include infection, swelling or hemorrhage.
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