Lens replacement surgery advances beyond cataracts

November 03, 2006
Mary Vlahos wore glasses for 54 years before cataracts required her to have the lenses replaced in both her eyes. After a procedure at New Hanover Regional Medical Center, she can see perfectly without glasses. “It’s quite a gift,” said Mrs. Vlahos. “I know a lot of people who had lens replacement surgery for cataracts and still needed glasses after it.” Mrs. Vlahos benefited from developments that have evolved since the first lens replacement was done more than 50 years ago. Today, doctors can use different types of lenses targeted to fix problems such as night-blindness, astigmatism, and near- and far-sightedness. “The quality of astigmatism correcting and multi-focal lenses have really improved over the last few years,” ophthalmologist Byron Stratas, M.D. said. “There were unwanted visual side effects. The quality of vision with the older type of lenses was not as sure as we would like it to be.” As a result of improvements, lens replacements are now being used not only as a treatment for cataracts, but also as an option for patients who want to be less dependent on glasses and contacts. While LASIK surgery is less invasive than lens replacement, not everyone is a good candidate for the procedure. People with dry eyes, a thin cornea, or other problems with the surface of their eyes might not be eligible for LASIK, which uses a laser to permanently change the shape of the cornea. During lens replacement surgery, the doctor makes a tiny incision to break apart the lens and remove it. Then, the new lens is inserted through the same incision. Patients go home the same day with little or no discomfort. Mrs. Vlahos had her first lens replacement done at New Hanover Regional in August. She had the other eye done in September. “It’s amazing to me how they corrected my vision so rapidly,” she said. “No pain - nothing. I came out seeing. My vision was 20/400 before surgery. The next day it was 20/30. Within a week, it was 20/15.”For a referral to an ophthalmologist who performs lens replacement surgery, call VitaLine at 1.888.815.5188.