Medical Watch: Cataract surgery at a much younger age

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wwltv.com

Posted on November 12, 2012 at 7:19 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 12 at 7:22 PM

Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
Email: mfarris@wwltv.com | Twitter: @megfarriswwl

NEW ORLEANS - It's the number one surgery in the world, and now baby boomers are opting for cataract surgery at a much younger age, in their 50s and 60s.

The reason? Now they can be free of contacts and glasses with one quick procedure.

Lynn Luker, 59, is about to have near perfect vision, better than some half her age.

"Which is to me a miracle that they are able to do all of this," said Luker as she was getting ready to have her second eye fixed.

Her eye doctor discovered cataracts forming. Her vision needs a contact in one eye to see close and a different contact prescription in the other to see far, known as monovision. She also has an astigmatism, a dome or more football-shaped eye rather than more rounded like a baseball. But with our cameras rolling, all of that will be gone in one morning.

Lynn had one eye fixed two weeks ago and already notices a difference.

"I can now read the text messages from my children without stumbling around trying to find glasses. I can read things that, on the way here for example, this morning I was reading something that my husband couldn't read. So I'm very please with that," said Luker.

On this day she was having the other eye fixed. But what makes this surgery special is new technology called the LenSx laser. It is safer, more accurate, and blade free. Before Lynn goes into the operating room, ophthalmic surgeon, Dr. Stephen Brint uses the LenSx to make pre-op incisions that are the perfect width and depth. Lynn is awake but mildly sedated. Her eye ball is numbed. In 52 seconds, she is done and heads into the O.R.

The area in the eye the doctor is working on is the lens which is behind the cornea and behind the iris, that pigmented or colored part of the eye. In our 40s, the lens gets hard so it doesn't flex as much to refocus and that's why we need reading glasses. But as we get even older and have a lot of sun exposure, the lens will actually get cloudy and that's a cataract. As you get older the cataract turns yellow and then gets brown.

In the O.R. Dr. Brint vacuums out the old lens that is getting cloudy with a cataract. Then the new, artificial lens that is folded up, is put in those exact incisions made with the LenSx. It then opens up in the eye.

"With the new lenses that we can put in, we can accomplish so many things, that especially the baby boomer generation, who denies the fact that they are a baby boomer generation and doesn't want to wear glasses or contacts, gives us a new way of correcting that if they are not suitable for LASIK (Laser-Assisted in Situ Keratomileusis)," explained Dr. Brint, an ophthalmologist in Metairie at the Ambulatory Eye Surgery Center of Louisiana. This is the first facility in Southern Louisiana and Mississippi to have the LenSx.

No stitches are needed. A special hydrating solution closes the incision in minutes. Some people chose multi focal lenses in each eye that allow them to see far, intermediate and close distances. Doing this surgery while a person is younger and healthier means no glasses or cataract surgery for the rest of his or her life. After the first eye was done, Lynn was back at the computer the next day, doing her work as an attorney .

"I really did not have any pain either during the procedure or after the procedure," said Luker.

Infections are extremely rare. To avoid them, patients can't swim or wear eye make up until healed.

Insurance pays for the basic cataract surgery but if you upgrade with special lenses and other procedures, you'll pay the difference. That difference is similar to LASIK surgery costs but you get more with this surgery.

You'll also save because most likely you'll never have to buy glasses or contacts again.

And the lenses have blue light protection to help prevent macular degeneration.

For more on Dr. Brint: http://eyesurgerylouisiana.com/ 

For more on the LenSx: http://www.lensxlasers.com/experience-lensx-laser.asp

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