BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Denham Springs resident, Brinda Degraff, hasn't seen clearly in about a decade. The petite woman with blonde hair suffers from severe cataracts. Her first cataracts formed from trauma, the result of an abusive ex-husband. A few years ago, she says her remaining good eye turned cloudy too, turning her world into a kaleidoscope of blurry shapes and colors.
"Can't make out faces. Nothing like that," said Degraff.
At just 49-years-old, she's young to have such a severe case. Many surgeons would not take her on because her cataracts were so dense. The denser the cataract, the more difficult and longer the surgery to remove it becomes. Surgeons will tell you the longer they must operate on an eye, the less likely there will be an optimal outcome. Degraff's case, according to Dr. Blake Williamson, was about as difficult as it gets.
"It's what you call a white cataract, so it's matured so much that we can't even see past the cataract to judge the overall health of the back of the eye," said Williamson.
However, an advanced laser is changing the game for cataract surgeons. The catalyst femtosecond laser fires into the eye and breaks up the cataract in just 30 seconds, making even the hardest cases easy and routine to fix in surgery. With help from the laser, a cataract can be removed, a new lens can be implanted, and sight can be restored in around 15 minutes.
Williamson describes the laser as dissolving the cataract like milk would a cookie. "If you have a hard cataract in the eye, it's sort of like a cookie. The laser is like dipping it in milk to make it soft and crumbly and really easy for the surgeon to remove in the operating room," said Williamson.
After her brief surgery, Degraff was wheeled into the recovery room. Her nurses helped her sit up, and after a few hesitant blinks and squints, Degraff's eyes opened wide. "I see people! Oh my god," exclaimed Degraff.
Williamson says most insurance companies will cover cataract surgery, but the laser procedure is not usually covered. However, there are payment options available.
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