BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - There's new hope for millions of cataract sufferers around the country. A lens implant recently approved by the FDA is now available in Louisiana. It offers near, intermediate and distance focus for patients who undergo cataract surgery – without the nighttime glares and halos caused by other lenses on the market.
At 62 years old, Susan Poole developed cataracts earlier than most. Over the course of one year, she realized something had to be done.
"I was putting my prescription glasses on top of my contacts so I could read, and without any of it, I just saw a bunch of grey lines," she said.
A cataract happens when the natural lens of the eye becomes cloudy and scatters the incoming light. Most people will eventually develop cataracts if they make it to their 80s. The only way to fix a cataract is to remove it.
Poole met with Dr. Blake Williamson at Williamson Eye Center in Baton Rouge to discuss her options.
Williamson suggested the new TECNIS® Symfony lens made by Abbott Medical Optics. It won FDA approval in July, and Williamson became the first Louisiana surgeon to implant it in August. He'd previously researched the lens in Europe where it has been available for several years.
"The Symfony lens is basically a whole new design. It's the next generation of intraocular lenses," he explained. "It's an extended depth of focus lens. It allows you distance vision, intermediate vision, which is arms-length, and up-close with very minimal nighttime symptoms."
The surgery to remove the cataract and insert the new lens only takes about 15 minutes. Poole had each eye done about two weeks apart. The patient
is awake for the laser-guided procedure, which uses a numbing solution to make it painless.
What makes the Symfony lens unique is its series of rings and ridges that focus incoming light.
"It's those rings that extend the light," Williamson explained. "So they don't break up the light like previous generations of lenses that help you see far away and up close, but instead they have one light focus that's just longer or extended."
The result is better, up-close vision in low-light, like reading a menu at a restaurant. Poole said she and her husband noticed that difference after getting the first eye done.
"We were looking at the menu to see what was in it, and he couldn't read it and I did," she said. She also couldn't believe how bright her kitchen was and how white her cabinets looked.
The Symfony lens also enhances colors and is available to a wider range of patients than other multifocal lenses.
Cataract surgery is typically covered by Medicare and insurance. Coverage of the lens implants depends on the provider. Without financial assistance, the total cost averages about $2,700 per eye. Williamson Eye Center offers financing to cover remaining costs.
If you notice blurriness, a glare, or difficulty driving in the bright sun or at night, it could be a warning sign of cataracts. Make an appointment with your eye doctor for an evaluation.