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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Lens frees cataract patients of glasses

Much like a camera lens, the lens of the eye focuses light and controls the ability of the eye to focus on objects. For the first 40 years or so of life, that lens works fine for most people. But eventually, the lens begins losing flexibility, leading to age-related presbyopia, which limits the eye's ability to focus. Cataracts develop as proteins in the lens start clumping together.

Treating cataracts long meant removing the entire lens and wearing "coke-bottle" glasses. Then came the popularization of intraocular lenses some 30 years ago. The intraocular lens procedure involves removing the clouded inner portion of the lens from the outer sac and replacing it with an artificial substitute.

Until recently, however, most substitute devices have been monofocal lenses, which provide only one range of focus -- near, intermediate or distance. Users have to wear corrective glasses even after surgery in order to see clearly at all distances, or have one lens focused for near vision and another focused for distance.

"So we put the lenses in there, but then the question was, where do we focus the lens?" said Dr. Gary I. Markowitz of Delaware Eye Care Center in Dover, the first ophthalmologist in Delaware to implant the new Alcon device.

The ReStor lenses -- termed pseudo-accommodative lenses -- allow doctors to forgo that decision by affording good vision at all distances and, for most users, eliminating the need for eyeglasses. In clinical trials, 80 percent of patients fitted with the lenses did not need glasses after having the implants. And, though they were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in March for the treatment of cataracts, they also can be used to treat presbyopia in people without cataracts.

Read more: Lens frees cataract patients of glasses


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